Kristine DiVincenzo, 21, knows all too well how important reading skills are in today's technologically advanced society, and she is trying to remedy a situation that began a very long time ago.
DiVincenzo was born with closed ear ducts, although no one realized it until she was 4 years old.
"At times I could hear, but most of the time I couldn't," DiVincenzo said in a soft voice.
"When I was 5 they put tubes in my ears to open up the ducts, but for two years everything seemed loud to me.
It was a difficult time."
When DiVincenzo was in the fourth grade her mother pulled her out of school and began home-schooling her daughter, but the girl had already lost crucial years of schooling.
"I lost a lot in those seven years.
That was the time period when most kids learn reading and comprehension, so I was really behind," she said.
After years of struggling with reading, DiVincenzo said her mother heard about the Kingman Literacy Council and the Laubach method of learning about three years ago.
"I wanted to read better, and do better in life," she said.
"I have been doing child care, but I want to do something else."
DiVincenzo began lessons with Alyta Tyra, a tutor with Kingman Literacy Council since 1988, and is now working toward her GED (high school general equivalency diploma).
Every week when Tyra works with DiVincenzo, the session starts with words that will be in that day's reading lesson: "rescue, barbecue, nephew."
DiVincenzo reads through the story as Tyra listens patiently, interrupting only occasionally.
"She learns pretty fast," Tyra said.
"Her comprehension is really good."
One hundred years ago only 6 percent of United States citizens graduated high school and one in 10 adults could not read.
Eighty-three years later, 73 percent of 20- to 25-year-old adults could not understand a newspaper story.
Today, one in five junior high students is reading below grade level, according to the Kingman Literacy Council.
There are 90 million people in the United States whose limited reading, writing, and computation skills condemn them to low earnings and limited opportunities, according to the Laubach Literacy, a nonprofit educational corporation that helps adults of all ages improve their lives by learning reading, writing, math and problem-solving.
"Reading is the most importantly fundamental skill a person needs to survive in today's world, yet many people reach adulthood without knowing how to read," Kingman Literacy Council president Charlene Haffner said.
"Literacy starts with reading.
Even math stems from reading.
You have to know how to read the problem before you can solve it."
It is also hard to find a job if you are illiterate.
"At least 50 percent of the unemployed are functionally illiterate," Haffner said.
"It is hard to find a better job if you can't fill out a job application."
Four years ago Haffner answered a Kingman Literacy Council ad in the newspaper asking for volunteers.
She went through 10 hours of training on the Laubach method of tutoring adults and children in reading and related subjects.
"The first year I was invited to tutor junior high students," she said.
"I was shocked to discover that many of our children do not know how to read.
Many seventh- and eighth- grade students did not know how to read at a sixth-grade level."
She has been tutoring students ever since, although she also teaches adults how to read.
"We have really branched out," Haffner said.
"We also instruct in English as a second language and have started a program to tutor those who wish to study for the GED.
During the 2001 school year three volunteers tutored 14 special-education students at Kingman Junior High School, but tutors also help adults who want to learn how to read for a variety of reasons.
"Some want to become more literate so they can complete their education, or to get a better job," she said.
Literacy tutor Bob Campbell works with four Spanish-speaking adults who want to learn English.
"This teacher is very, very good," one student said of Campbell.
Lessons with Campbell, who said he was a literacy tutor in the military, are anything but dull.
"I try to sneak some everyday conversation and humor into the sessions," Campbell said after telling a short joke.
Haffner said the literacy council needs more tutors like Tyra and Campbell.
A free 10-hour training workshop on the Laubach method of tutoring will be held Aug.
23-24 at the Kingman Public Library, 3269 N.
Burbank St., in the large conference room.
Call 692-7101 or 757-3356 to register and to receive information on times of classes.
The Kingman Literacy Council will hold regular monthly meetings at 7 p.m.
the fourth Tuesday of the month beginning in September.
Anyone interested in joining the council is invited to attend.
Meetings are held at the Kingman Presbyterian Church, 2425 Detroit Ave.