Yesterday I returned to the Institute at St. Louis to continue my work as a volunteer in adult literacy teaching. Getting to the place was a little easier this time, and the music from the radio helped. Oh, there was this awesome show on the NPR about how the economy of Brazil was turned around by two young men who introduced a new (first virtual, and later real) currency, the URV, and helped to turn the tide of the country’s spiral inflation.

My student on Monday was a man from Bhutan of between sixty and sixty-five years old. He had never learnt to read or write in his life and was just beginning. I don’t know his condition of coming into the United States and I’m not interested in asking (nor am I even allowed/supposed to, I think), but I was impressed by his interest and a physical joy he expresses in his attitude to learning. Much of what we did on Monday were reading through images, repetition and demonstration. Then later we moved to dictation, crossword puzzles and word scrambles. The most interesting thing about each experience is that even when the students are not performing well in class exercises, there is a certain pride that come across in the faces of each tutor because of the efforts students have put in and the excitement on their faces for even having tried.

The students all come to the Institute everyday and will, after a while, learn sufficient literacy to conduct the business of daily living in the language of the society without help. Maybe not enough to read Dante, Shakespeare or Cervantes, but to do what they must to get through every day. If I could go there everyday of the week, I probably would.

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