Drake Center Advances Adult Literacy

For those who can’t read, the dedication of Anne Murr and her team of volunteers is invaluable.

For decades Jerry Schillinger rode his route with a partner. But when garbage pickup was automated, only one driver was needed per truck. That meant Schillinger had to read street signs and fill out vehicle reports — things he had relied on his partner to handle for more than 30 years.

“The inability to read affects every area of a person’s life,” says Anne Murr, coordinator of the Drake University Adult Literacy Center. “However, this is a minority that doesn’t speak out.”

In fact, most low-literate adults don’t seek help until prompted by a crisis, much like the one Schillinger experienced.

Continuing Commitment

The Drake University Adult Literacy Center was founded in 1976 with a grant from the Department of Health, Education and Welfare. Though the grant ended, volunteers have kept the program running.

Murr is the only staff member. She coordinates about 80 volunteers who serve more than 100 students every year, making it the largest adult literacy program in the state of Iowa.

Reaping the Rewards

Murr credits the students and volunteers with the center’s success.

“It is really the relationships that develop between tutors and students that keep both coming back,” she says.

And coming back is essential. As an adult, learning how to read can be slow and arduous; it can take years to learn what a child learns in months. Starting with nine hours of training for the tutors, the process requires tenacity by both tutor and student, who meet once or twice a week.

“The need is great. But the rewards are greater,” says Murr.

Schillinger has been coming to the Adult Literacy Center for five years. He has progressed from not knowing his letter sounds to his most recent accomplishment — learning to read a menu so he can take his wife out to dinner.

-— Sherry Speikers, GR’93

For more information about the Drake University Adult Literacy Center, visit www.drake.edu/adultliteracycenter.

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