It began with jury duty.
The judge said if anyone could not read or write,
they were not qualified to serve on the jury. He said
anyone who could not read and write were required
to approach the bench.
One gentleman stepped forward — with all eyes on
him — to approach the bench.
Nancy Wax was in the jury pool that day. She felt his
embarrassment and knew she wanted to be able to teach people, like this gentleman, to learn to read.
She shared her idea with her prayer group at First United Methodist Church
Julie Williamson, wife of Evangelist Cecil Williamson, who holds a doctorate degree in reading/literacy, was in attendance and her mind went to work, and it wasn’t long until the Oktibbeha County Adult Literacy Ministries was created.
She began talking about the idea, then Williamson received a $1,000 donation from Dollar General to buy literature and train tutors to get the program off the ground. Of the $1,000 received, they purchased 40 sets of workbooks and hired a tutor trainer from Georgia to come “teach” the volunteers how to teach others to read.
“We understand that an adult who has secretly made it into late adulthood without being able to read will be a very special student,” said Myrna Lott, coordinator for the Oktibbeha County Adult Literacy Ministries. “This is who we are looking for. These students are ones who would not be willing to go to a group session.”
The ministry teaches students one-on-one, at a place agreeable to both student/teacher, such as a person’s church, the library, First United Methodist Church, etc.
Lott said the ideal student would be someone who has not had the opportunity to go to school, has had to drop out for some reason, has had to change jobs and needs help filling out applications, etc.
“We also want students who want to learn to read the Bible; which is a desire for much of the older generation,” Lott said. “We would love to work with a student, and then, after finishing the tutor sessions, be able to go to the student’s church and present a certificate of completion as well as their own Bible.”
Literacy tutor Rev. Larnzy Carpenter, said teaching someone to read is a self-esteem builder.
"When you can teach them to read, it brings about knowledge," Carpenter said. "A person with knowledge can bring about a change. When you can change what you know, you can change who you are and the direction for your life."
For more information about Oktibbeha County Adult
Literacy Ministries, contact Lott at 324-3067.