Sunday, August 15, 2010

I met a 17-y.o. girl who can't read. No, seriously, it's true.

I'm changing some facts to this story due to the privacy of the matter...

I met a girl, who is 19, that reads on a kindergarten level.

During one of my volunteer activities I was sitting around chatting with some girls when one girl asked me to write some loving words on a birthday card to her boyfriend. A younger girl immediately volunteered and wrote an amazing passage on scrap paper and passed it to the first girl, who did not look at it. Instead, the first girl immediately passed it to me and asked me to write those words on her card. I was confused as to why she couldn't write it and why she didn't even look at it so I asked her a few times ,'Well, did you read it?' She lied and said 'yes' even though she so obviously passed the paper to me and did not even look at it.

When I pressed her by asking why can't she do it she said something like she likes the way I write or something of that nature (although she had never seen me write). Eventually, it hit me--this girl might not be able to read!

After writing the passage on her card I wanted to confirm my suspicion so I told her she needed to sign her own name. She wanted to write 'Love Always, Girl X.' I had to spell out the letters of each word for her (amazing) because she did not know the spelling (thankfully she can write her own name). When I got to the 'Y' in 'always' she said, 'Does that letter go like this?' and she proceeded to mime the writing of 'Y' in the air.

I was floored.

Although I played it off I was really surprised... and scared for her. She is young, very friendly and very pretty. In the hands of the wrong person this type of situation can end up badly for her. Illiteracy prevents you from being independent, such as finding your way home by reading street signs if you get lost, ordering from a menu at a restaurant or, even more importantly, finding a job. This is also how young girls become prostitutes. When you can't read, you're dependent on other people to do things for you.

I pray to God she lives life safely and learns to read.

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