64-year-old TN man learns to read - WMC Action News 5 - Memphis, Tennessee

64-year-old TN man learns to read

Ralph Burns and Sydney Osborne (Source: TODAY) Ralph Burns and Sydney Osborne (Source: TODAY)
KNOXVILLE, TN (TODAY) -

A Tennessee man is knocking a skill off his bucket list after 64 years of life--he's finally learning to read.

Knoxville resident Ralph Burns can now accomplish things many of us take for granted every day, like reading the menu at a restaurant.

Burns told TODAY that he never learned to read because he had a rough childhood. After he was abandoned as a child, Burns lived with a man who sent him to school. However, he said he would just sleep through class and didn't learn anything.

When he was 14, Burns said he dropped out of school and learned to paint. He's been working at that skill ever since.

Burns spent his life working around his inability to read by asking questions at restaurants and stores instead of reading.

Then, TODAY said a church friend referred Burns to Friends of Literacy, an organization that paired him with a tutor.

Burns eventually linked up with 49-year-old Sydney Osborne, who started Burns on basics like the alphabet. The two are incredibly patient with each other, and their hard work has paid off.

Burns now reads at a first-grade level. He's been working on books like "Green Eggs and Ham". His first read through took six hours; now, he can speed through the Dr. Seuss classic in less than 15 minutes.

Now, Burns said he's got control over more of his life, and he has no plans to quit any time soon.

Copyright 2017 TODAY/ NBC News. All rights reserved.

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