Chebucto Connections knows that the skill of reading helps a person know they belong. Don Downey used to not be able to read. “It’s been a desire my entire life. I wanted to know what it’s like, how other people live. It’s a sense of blindness, not being able to read.”
At the age of 52, Donnie dropped into the Chebucto Connections office one day and started talking about wanting to learn how to read. As he explained later, “I didn’t want to be embarrassed any more. It’s pretty embarrassing, living a lie, trying to get through, hiding that you can’t read so others wouldn’t look down on you, and think of you as less of a person.”
Now that he can read, Donnie says he doesn’t feel inferior to other people any more. “A whole new world has opened up. I can read the paper, check my horoscope every day, get letters without other people having to read them to me, handle my own affairs. I can go to the lawyer’s office and be able to actually read what I’m signing.”
As Donnie says, “Most people take reading for granted. To me, it’s a gift. I know if I ever become disabled, I can at least pass the time reading, instead of just listening to the radio or watching TV.”
At Chebucto Connections, we know that children who are not reading to level by grade two are not likely to finish high school, and early detection is important. Donnie believes that “You have to jump on it with two feet before children get lost in the system. Not being able to read promotes violence. People turn to crime because of their reading disabilities, such as dyslexia, and we have to put resources into helping children read.”
For people who have reached adulthood without being able to read, Donnie has words of hope. “Teaching adults one on one is very important, to get comfortable. A classroom atmosphere doesn’t work for everyone – people need a buddy system. By helping others, you help yourself.”
Chebucto Connections Pathways to Education program for high school students includes a literacy component for students who need extra help to improve their reading and writing.