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The Growth Of Awareness Of Adult Illiteracy In Britain



The principles on which Rathbone Reading Clubs are founded are that of dealing with the declared difficulties of the client in terms that make sense to him.  If someone has failed to 1earn to read over a long period - particularly if they have had apposite help in the past there is a need to take these facts into account.  The student needs success and needs support.  It is not possible to guarantee success but support can be assured, in particular support for his own specific aims.

It may be that the student will have an ability as a motor mechanic and be able to do anything with a car engine, but if he is unable to read a maintenance manual, or unable to remember for long enough how to write down the names of spare parts, he will be prevented from gaining promotion his abilities would otherwise recomend for him,

The teaching schemes of Rathbone are individually based to meet the needs of the student, such as I have described above.  The statement often quoted "All happy families resemble each other, each unhappy family is unhappy in its own way" applies just as much to adult illiterates who have individual causes for their disability.  For this reason, if for no other, the students who come to RRC, are so disparate that they could not be integrated into a group for teaching purposes.

A teacher of young people learning to read at the normal age will note that the process is so fast and can be compared with the process of acquiring speech.  It seems perfectly easy, rapid and pleasurable.  This last factor is extremely important, and it is the function of the relationship between teacher and taught to ensure that the process is always pleasurable.  When dealing with those whom the system has already failed, it is necessary to come back to the first steps in the process of learning to read in order to understand the students in their own terms, and to present them with a neutral area where friendship, acceptance and an effort to adapt the techniques of teaching reading to suit an individual’s particular circumstances, may be found.

While it is impossible to describe a typical or average student, it is possible to describe their introduction into Rathbone Reading Clubs.  The referral sources are infinite  Social Services, schools, Adult Education Institutes, doctors, church ministers, speech therapists, Probation Officers, employers, friends, relatives, and of course the individual, himself – indeed anyone who may come into contact with an adult who has difficulties in mastering literacy may refer them to the clubs.

Initially, a lengthy case-history report on the student is not required, but the referring agent should sponsor the client, and if at all possible, accompany them on the first evening of attendance.  The presence of a familiar companion will help the student in retaining his confidence at entering a new situation.  If this companionship is not possible, the supervising tutor of this nearest club, the Co-ordinator or a member of the Management Group will make a home visit.  This is always very valuable because although the clubs do not expect to enlist the support of the family in order to work with the client18, knowledge of the dynamics within the family is of interest  and may

18 Note: the terms “student” and “client” may be used interchangeably, although the term student is preferred.

© Amity Reading Clubs and Betty Cooper 1978 to 2002 Page 17 of 51

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