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The Growth Of Awareness Of Adult Illiteracy In Britain


Writing my extended essay for the HNC Business Studies (Public Administration ) course was something of a watershed for me.  I had been a volunteer with Amity Reading Clubs for several years, but working on the study reinforced my commitment to adult literacy in an unexpected way, I became something of a zealot, needing to continue to develop and deploy my skills.

It was only when I had to sell my flat and move to Whitstable at the end 1999 that I finally relinquished my duties as a Supervising Tutor and volunteer with the Clubs.  By this time I was the longest serving volunteer by far (apart from the Founding Organisers).  I had also served as honorary secretary to the Clubs since the late 1970’s, but here, my attempts to stand down were short lived, and I continue in the role today, although my worsening arthritis and increasing age (I am now in my late sixties) are telling me that this role too will have to be surrendered soon.

This makes it all the more enjoyable to learn that Amity Reading Clubs want to republish my extended essay.  To have found it at all, after all these years was a minor miracle; but seeing it scanned, and reformatted for publication on the Club’s web site is wonderful.

Re-reading my essay today, I am intrigued to see what has changed and what has remained the same.  The Amity approach to adult literacy tuition has proved to be very robust and enduring, much like the organisation itself.  The interviews with volunteers and students are almost timeless, much of them could have been written yesterday.  My exploration of adult literacy providers and the need for their services is more depressing, there have been many changes but little improvement, rather the position has got worse.

Perhaps the biggest single change is new technology, and I am pleased to say that I was one of the key promoters for its introduction into Amity’s work.  Laptop computers and specialist literacy software are now basic resources at every Amity venue, but underlying its use is the solid backbone of the one-to-one student – volunteer relationship.

Amity is smaller now than in the heady days of the late 1970’s and wholly voluntary.  It has been these changes which have enabled it to survive the funding cuts of the 1980’s and 1990’s and continue to flourish.  One of Amity’s key objectives has always been the promotion of its unique approach to adult literacy tuition, and with the arrival of the “internet” this has now become a realistic goal.  Its web site, www.amity.org.uk now contains a huge amount of information about the organisation and its style of operation, as well as providing a wealth of information for the volunteer.  Not surprisingly, it is now attracting international attention.

© Amity Reading Clubs and Betty Cooper 1978 to 2002 Page 4 of 51

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