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The Growth Of Awareness Of Adult Illiteracy In Britain

assist in clarifying problems as they arise.

Many clients are special school students and the typical picture among parents of children who are acknowledged by public norms to be below standard is that of a child “only a mother could love”.  Therefore the mother may tend to become over protective, while the father may avert his attention from the problem.  This last reaction may be manifested to the extent of discussing the student in his presence without introducing him to the visitor.  All this is very understandable; the very least Rathbone can do for a mother who is housebound with an E.S.N. youngster is to relieve her of the burden of care for a few house a week. The parents responsibility is round the clock and lasts until the parents' death.

Although many E.S.N. children are not capable of independence throughout their lifetime, the very protective attitude of parents may militate against growth of independence for those youngsters capable of it.  It is an essential part of adolescent development that everyone learns to manage his own affairs - and it is only possible to prove that ability by actually doing so effectively.  The protective attitude of parents can prevent E.S.N. children obtaining this very necessary experience of the struggles involved in attaining maturity end retard their mental and emotional growth.

By meeting the family of the student the anxieties can be allayed and in particular the student’s mother may be reassured that all their efforts in relation to her child are fully recognised.  This is the very least that may be achieved.  No specific help or support with the homework is requested or in giving extra practice with the student.  In due course, it maybe that the student will take home a work he has produced with the help of his tutor that may be included in the Club newsheet, which is produced by the students themselves with the guidance of their tutors.  By showing this work at home the student can show his family his own capability and progress,

Making the first visit to a Rathbone Reading Club can require a great deal of courage - not just on the part of a student but also for the volunteer.  Almost all report that the first experience was very tense and confusing.  On entry, the visitor sees couples sitting at tables playing cards (apparently), reading together, drawing and over all a steady hubbub of talk, laughter and general enjoyment.  In one corner sits the supervising tutor, apparently doing nothing very much.  At first sight there seems no structure, no environment in which “learning” can take place.  It is not possible to tell teachers from the taught even after a few minutes watching.  This can't be a reading class - it’s more like a social club.

In particular, volunteers often say that they find it very difficult to identify the role of the supervising tutor or of the volunteer.  This uncertainty creates a strong feeling of insecurity and leaves the volunteer with a feeling of having no ground to step on.  To some extent this feeling is necessary so that the volunteer can experience the feelings of the student and so gain insight into the uncertainty that they feel.  The role and intervention of the supervising tutor is of the utmost importance in building the confidence of the volunteer.19

In the previous chapters 1 have described the development of the special categories for tuition initially in the Blackfriars Literacy scheme, and subsequently in the setting up of the R.R.C.  However, the founders are keenly aware of the dangers of penning individuals into pre-delineated categories.  This would be even more risky if group

19 Responses of Rathbone Reading Clubs members (see Appendix 1)

© Amity Reading Clubs and Betty Cooper 1978 to 2002 Page 18 of 51

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