The Lake County Literacy Program works every day to help Lake County residents improve their reading and academic skills. Volunteer tutors work side-by-side with their students to create individualized learning plans that can help to change a life. Twenty percent of the Florida Population is functionally illiterate. Whether their challenges stem from a physical disability or one that is caused by missed educational opportunities, each person who cannot read finds many everyday tasks impossible.
One Lake County story was showcased at the Florida Literacy Conference that was held in Daytona Beach in May. Chosen as an opening speaker for this state-wide conference, Ron Shipley related his personal story, a story that represents anyone who is challenged by reading.
Here is Ron’s story in his own words.
My name is Ron Shipley and I have Dyslexia. I have struggled with it my entire life. As a child, I was a stutterer with a speech impairment. School was torture.
I remember an embarrassing and humiliating moment when I was in 7th grade, and my teacher discovered that I couldn’t read or write. She began the class by telling the students how important it is to know how to read and write, while looking at me several times. I started to get that sinking feeling. You know the one you get when something bad is about to happen? Then, she looked at me and told me to read a paragraph. My heart was pounding. I looked at the words on the page with tears in my eyes when I heard a whispering voice behind me reading the words, and I spoke the words out loud. That little girl saved me. Afterwards, I looked back at her and whispered, “thank you”. I didn’t even know her name.
I was getting nothing out of school – couldn’t read or write! I knew I wanted to be a carpenter in junior high school. I always liked working with my hands, always building things out of scrap. I quit high school in the 12th grade when I was 18, and got a job as a laborer building houses. Over time, I worked my way up to carpenter. Five years later, I landed a job in the commercial construction building industry as a carpenter and worked my way up to Superintendent, eventually working on multimillion dollar projects.
Dyslexia is NOT a deal breaker for success; but, you must work hard to cope with it in order to be successful at whatever you choose to do in your life.
I’d signed up for the adult literacy program in the past, but never saw it through. Each time, I made small improvements, but not enough to read a book or write a letter or an email. When I signed up again with the Mount Dora Library, I was paired with Betty as my tutor. When I began, my reading level was the second grade. Betty got me believing in myself. She motivated me and gave me the confidence I needed. I am reading in the 6th grade level now and will keep working to improve.
I am 57 years old, and just finished reading my 3rd book! I am also writing emails and other correspondence for work. Betty took me to the next level. I have more confidence in myself than I have ever had.
I can’t thank the Lake County Literacy Program the Florida Literacy Coalition, staff and volunteers enough for the work and time they put into this program. A special thanks goes out to Betty Schwarten. We have built a friendship that will last forever.
Ron’s hard work along with guidance and coaching from his tutor Betty have helped him reach new goals. Today Ron continue to work as a superintendent with a commercial builder. He continues his tutoring and is still learning new ways to overcome his reading challenges. The W. T. Bland Library in Mount Dora and the Lake County Literacy Coalition have helped him continue his quest for excellence.