My Love for Literacy

Mary Jean Raab here, a Washtenaw Literacy Board member and current board chair. And, past board chair, but that is another story.

I love books!  Our house is full of books, some read, some started, and some waiting for time!  Do you remember Borders Bookstore?  I was always a big Borders shopper when they were up on State Street. The business section!  New trends shared, old theories explained, leadership tips, strategic planning, and so on.  My favorites were read several times. Others were started and have a Borders bookmark at chapter two or three.  I will get back to them.

Imagine my excitement at getting a management job at Borders!  They had recently been purchased by KMart when I joined them, and superstores of all kinds were the way to retail expansion.  I was there to open 450 stores, receive several promotions, and then “retire” as Senior Vice President, …but that is another story, too.

My story today is personal. It’s of me as a first grader who was “cheated” out of learning phonics!  Yes, it was one of those times when the AAPS were trying a new method to teach reading.  I think it was called “Look and Say Method,” an approach that teaches children to read and recognize whole words. My sense is it was just used in a few chosen first grade classes, and by the time I went on to second grade the method disappeared.  In fact, when my brother went through the same elementary school, two years later, he learned phonics and could spell anything!  He could sound out any word and spell it.  But I could not sound out anything, so spelling was difficult, and I’m sure my reading scores were low, as well.

The summer before fourth grade, my Mother hired a tutor for me.  It was a woman who lived next door, a retired teacher.  She was tough.  The sessions seemed looooooong.  And, they were embarrassing.  Today, I can still picture myself on that enclosed porch next door, reading aloud and saying IS LAND for island!  I am sure I learned many other words that summer, but all these years later, that one sticks with me as if it was yesterday. I was fortunate to have parents that were able to secure help for me very early.  

So, my love for WL, and my dedication to the organization, stems from very early and personal experiences, along with huge appreciation for the staff—for the past 50 years, present, and future. This staff includes the relentless program staff—know who you are—along with the volunteer tutors and mentors. Words cannot express my appreciation for what you have done, and will do, to help learners and to create their memories.

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