When Norman Brown saw a particular game at parties, he came up with an excuse to leave.
This game isn’t typically associated with causing embarrassment or making participants uncomfortable for the sake of entertainment.
The classic game, Scrabble, made Brown leave barbecues and dinner parties simply because he wanted to avoid playing.
He wasn’t embarrassed because of a struggle to spell or come up with long words.
Brown didn’t know how to read even as an adult. He felt such shame surrounding his illiteracy that he hid this secret until he turned 47 years old.
It’s hard to believe an adult who went to school in this country at the time Brown did would not be able to read. It’s even harder to imagine successfully keeping that fact a secret.
Though his inability to read for the first 47 years of his life greatly affected his life individually, he was far from alone.
The U.S. Department of Education reported that about 32 million adults in the U.S. are not able to read.
For Brown, he can point back to elementary school. His fellow classmates were ahead of him at the Bakersfield, California, school.
Brown kept falling behind, but he also kept moving up in grade level. Somehow, he was able to make it to the tenth grade without being able to read.
“This is insane that I went so far in school and nobody caught it, and if the kids found out that you couldn’t read, you’re done. Anywhere you go, they’re gonna pick on you,” Brown said, according to ABC News.
Concern about being teased developed into concern about getting a job.
Many jobs require the ability to read, but even if they don’t, the written application was enough to deter Brown or require assistance from friends to complete.
The truth finally came out, and at 47 years old, Brown decided he would learn to read. The Kern Literacy Council matched him with a tutor named Ed.
Not only do Brown and Ed spend time reading books and writing together, but they also play Scrabble.
Gone are the days of Brown leaving parties because of a round of Scrabble.
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