Literacy Mid-South helping Memphians read - WMC Action News 5 - Memphis, Tennessee

Literacy Mid-South helping Memphians read

(WMC-TV) - One in three adults in Memphis read at a fifth-grade level or below and those fighting to change that statistic say illiteracy is at the core of many of this city's problems.

But one Mid-South couple is making a change for the better.

Charlie Rais is practicing a basic skill many of us take for granted. He and his wife Louretta are spending their retirement years learning how to read through free classes at Literacy Mid-South.

"Yeah, my husband and I have been married 42 years and so we're growing together," said Louretta Rais.

Charlie Rais was a truck driver for 23 years. He couldn't read street signs, but became a pro at following the lines on a map book.

"I went to places and found places that the guy's who could read couldn't find," he said.

The couple hid their secret most of their lives, relying on directory assistance when they couldn't read the phone book - until the service was no longer free. When that happened, their phone bill skyrocketed.

In order to lower their bill they had to present proof of illiteracy. While at Literacy Mid-South for an evaluation, they signed up for two classes a week with other adults who share their struggle.

Elen Mooman used to pay someone to pay her bills and take her to the grocery store.

"I had to depend on everybody to do everything for me, but now I'm depending on myself," she said.

"We have people from all walks of life that come here," said Literacy Mid-South Development Director Kevin Dean. He said more than 120,000 people in Memphis cannot read or write.

"When I found out that we have FedEx employees here I knew that there was a big problem," he said.

Dean said it's a problem that's at the core of the city's biggest challenges.

"If we could address literacy in this city I think that we could take care of all these other issues like crime and poverty," he said.

Louretta and Charlie Rais took on the challenge just in time to read to their three-year-old granddaughter Savannah.

Literacy MidSouth's programs serve more than 2,500 children and adults each year. The group's annual operating budget is almost a half a million dollars.

The city of Memphis contributes $20,000 annually. The rest of the money comes from private and corporate donors.

For more information on classes, or how to become a volunteer, click here.

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