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Reading, it’s life

Wednesday, January 2, 2013
ALTA’s founder Paula Lucie-Smith gives a talk at an ALTA Annual tutor meeting.

We live in the age of information and that information is written. 

A phone call has become a text; your social life is on Facebook; to access almost everything, you fill out a form. 
For 20 years ALTA-trained volunteers have taught free adult literacy classes at 50 venues throughout Trinidad.  
Our students come because they feel left out. One student put it: “There is no place for me in the heart of society.”
The greatest myth about reading is that it’s easy. 
Neuroscience continues to reveal the sheer and wondrous complexity of reading and writing, showing that many factors beyond our control determine the age at which we master literacy, not least being the wiring of our brain. 
Reading is like any skill, some of us have natural talent, some struggle to learn, and most fall at the various points between these two poles of ease and difficulty. 
Using methods developed for dyslexics to overcome any lack of aptitude for literacy, ALTA gives anyone over the age of 16 the opportunity to learn, often denied in their childhood by poverty, neglect or abuse.  
ALTA’s 2012 impact survey, drawn from a database of over 10,000 students, showed that 100 per cent would recommend ALTA to others; 86 per cent achieved the expectations they had when they enrolled; and a surprise result—students said since ALTA, they were happier. 
More than teaching reading and writing, ALTA brings together people who would not otherwise meet: Not just tutors and students, but tutor and tutor, student and student. 
Each comes to look at the other, and the world, with more understanding of their differences and their difficulties. Building bridges between people is the first step to changing attitudes to literacy, or lack of literacy. 
This series of ALTA articles in the Guardian is such a bridge between the literate and the not-so-literate.  
First, we will introduce readers to our students through their own writing about their lives and their literacy journey. 
Then you will meet our volunteer tutors and read what they have done for ALTA and what ALTA has done for them. Later we will visit ALTA projects in the prisons and with youth.  
By spreading awareness in this way, ALTA hopes that every man and woman will feel confident to call 624-ALTA or walk into their nearest library on the first Tuesday and Wednesday of the academic year to improve their literacy skills.
More than 20 years after I began teaching adult literacy, I still cannot conceive my life without being able to read. 
You can help by sponsoring a student ($500/year) or buying a one-term “Gift of Reading” certificate ($180) to give as a Christmas gift. 
If you have time, you can volunteer to be an ALTA tutor, Reading Circle Guide or a Friend of ALTA. 
Help ALTA bring literacy to those now locked out of the world of the written word, call 624-ALTA (2582) or email [email protected].  


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