Desire key to overcoming illiteracy

Published 12:00 am Monday, September 6, 1999

The secret of learning anything is being motivated, said Janet McNeely, director of the Retired and Senior Volunteer Program.

&uot;It’s that inner desire. That’s the secret,&uot; McNeely said.

McNeely is not only director of the RSVP program, she also teaches adult literacy at the Natchez Senior Citizens Center on the corner of Washington and Martin Luther King Jr. Streets.

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She uses a program developed especially for adult learners called the Laubach Literacy Program.

&uot;It works on a basic phonics system, geared for adults,&uot; McNeely said.

The primary difference between the adult program and an elementary program taught to children is the adult program includes more repetition and visual cues.

&uot;Adults don’t pick it up as quickly as children do,&uot; she said. &uot;So, the program repeats the same sounds and words.&uot;

Students of the adult literacy program range in age from 18 to 82, all have different reasons for coming into the program.

&uot;One 48-year-old man had a five-year-old daughter who wanted him to read to her,&uot; McNeely said. &uot;That man was the fastest learner I ever had. He learned to read in three months.&uot;

Which brings McNeely back to her primary point of any sort of learning: motivation. McNeely’s oldest student is 82 and has longed to read her entire life.

&uot;The statistics in Adams County alone are staggering,&uot; McNeely said. &uot;One out of every 3-4 adults cannot read or write.&uot;

Sept. 8 is recognized as International Literacy Day, she said. It marks an opportunity to encourage people to seek help improving their reading skills.

The Laubach Literacy Program focuses on adult learning and learning for persons with learning disabilities, McNeely said.

&uot;This series asks questions about comprehension in the very beginning,&uot; McNeely said, emphasizing the need to not only read the words, but to understand them.

Another aspect of the program is to push students to read words in a sweeping motion rather than a choppy style of reading one word at a time, she said.

&uot;We aim for fluency instead of choppy reading,&uot; McNeely said. &uot;We try to pull together an idea at a time rather than a word at a time.

&uot;The bottom line is that people can learn whatever they want to learn. The sky is the limit.&uot;