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The Growth Of Awareness Of Adult Illiteracy In Britain

Finally, in this chapter I would like to quote from a paper written by Mr. Stephen P. Portlock, a supervising tutor and a professional Family Caseworker with a local authority social services department:

"Clients come to the club because they fear to go on as they have been.  Perhaps it is too difficult to keep up the defences any longer….  Motivation in terms of attendance and concentration is extremely high.  However, the acquisition of literacy skills is also a tremendous upheaval in their lives for it gives them a power and responsibility they have not previously had, and for which their whole lives, and their families’ lives have been dedicated to deny and cope with.  Little consideration, I feel is given by educators to the effect and implications of education on the lives of the learners.  Perhaps this is because education is seen by all as a “good thing” and the majority are able to cope with it.  However, many of our client group have not been able to cope with it….  Our clients are not too stupid to learn but (that) the-problem of illiteracy is becoming marginally more difficult for them to tolerate than the problems literacy will bestow on them.”20

I believe that this passage outlines the very real difficulties faced by many students in accepting their need for literacy.  Such acquisition may force them into a more responsible role where previously they have been able to take a passive part in their family life because of the handicap of illiteracy.

20 “It isn’t what we do, it’s the way we do it”: Stephen P. Portlock.  From an unpublished essay prepared for the Rathbone Reading Clubs training manual, 1977.

© Amity Reading Clubs and Betty Cooper 1978 to 2002 Page 23 of 51

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