MOUNT DORA – Although Mount Dora resident Johnnie Coley holds a bachelor’s degree in psychology and a master’s in human services management, she never learned to read.
“I pretended to read my whole life,” Coley confessed at the graduation ceremony for the W.T Library adult literacy program. Bland at Mount Dora on Wednesday. “This is my truth.”
Although it seems unreal, Coley said he has a good memory and would memorize what he meant in lectures. If she were asked to read something, she would simply respond with something generic to get around the fact that her eyes froze every time she tried to read.
As for writing, Coley said he knew how to spell words and make sentences, knowing what he meant. She considers herself a good writer, but for some reason, when she was asked to read something, she was unable to decipher all the words and the words did not flow together in one sentence.
Coley saw that the library offered an adult literacy program and she finally decided to enter.
“At first I thought it was only for people who wanted English as a second language,” she said. “I didn’t even know if I would qualify. So what would I say? ‘Hey guys, I have a master’s degree, can you teach me how to read?’ ”
But she faced her reality and decided to join the program, where she found zero trial.
In the program, she started at the fourth grade reading level, learning how to pronounce words she didn’t know and how to read in context.
While she was doing the program, Coley offered to read to the children at Mount Dora Christian Academy to practice, but said it was sometimes difficult when children had to tell her how to say a few words.
“These five and six year olds were telling me the words,” she said. “My tutor taught me how to pronounce the words, and now I am confident in reading and I can’t make it up as I go on. I read the Bible a lot and now I walk around with my head up. “
Coley said he greatly appreciated his tutor, Lisa Dunklin, for hanging out with her for four years.
“Who does that?” Coley said. “You are either crazy or you really care about people.”
And the past four years have not been without difficulties. Coley underwent two knee surgeries and was diagnosed with COVID-19, but she continued her search virtually.
“I am happy to celebrate this wonderful personal achievement with her,” said Dunklin. “She first said to me, ‘I want to stop reading fake ones at my job and at church’. To that end, she and I began to discover the wonders of the printed word. I’ve never worked with someone whose personal determination toward a goal was so powerful. She never gave up. “
Now that Coley has learned to read, she says she walks with her head up and throws it a little bit because she feels so proud.
“It almost frees you in a different way,” said Coley. “It was a great experience, which I will never forget.”
Interested in adult literacy programs?
All Lake County Library System libraries offer the adult literacy program. For more information visit mylakelibrary.org.