Literacy can mean different things to different people.  There are even different types of literacy – functional, basic, technological, advanced and more.  However, at its very core, literacy is simply the ability to read and write.
One would therefore imagine that becoming literate would be an easy enough goal to achieve.  Wrong.
According to a study conducted by UNESCO, there are over 781 million people around the globe who cannot read or write.

Learning Difficulties, which include Dyslexia and Attention Deficit Disorder among others, would cause some problems in learning to read.  Very little was known about Learning Difficulties until a few decades ago.  As a result, individuals with Learning Difficulties were regarded as being either lazy or just stupid.  We cannot begin to even fathom the effects such name calling would have on an individual. The damage   done to one’s self esteem and confidence would be staggering when you are told, time after time, that you are stupid, with the implication that you would never amount to much or succeed at anything.  After a period of time, those at the receiving end of such epithets would begin to believe in these fallacies.

The effects of illiteracy in society are well documented.  While these effects are both far reaching and monumental, the impact on the individual psyche is far more devastating.

At a young age, children go to school to learn to read and write.  Some will grasp the mechanics involved quite easily while others will not.  The ones who struggle need our attention and encouragement.  A look of disapproval, a careless word of dismissal or indifference to these children could cause incalculable harm.  They would give up trying to read and write, imagining they could never ever succeed.  Children grow into teenagers and then into adults and all through those years they carry with them the shame and embarrassment of not being able to read.

A few years ago, I met an older adult who had come to the Literacy Council to learn to read and write.  During the Assessment she struggled to read a short story but neither she nor I was ready to give up.  When we made it to the end of the story, she turned to me and said, “I can read ! I haven’t read anything in so many years.”  To this day, I still can see the pure joy in her face.  She could let go of the shame, she had read a story.  She then called me ‘an angel from heaven’ – that was an exaggeration and quite undeserved but I cherish it to this day.

I also recall meeting another lady.  She was successfully running a boutique specializing in bridal wear but could not read or write.  Her sister did that for her.  During the Assessment, she turned to me and said, “My sister is the only person who knows I cannot read.  You are now the second person who knows this.”  For 48 years she had kept this a secret, borne the burden of it.  Now it seemed that a load had been lifted.  She was going to learn to read.

There are several such instances. Many will have happy endings though some may not.  Even the tiniest success serves as a major driving force for us at the Literacy Council and we are thankful to all those who help make these ‘miracles’ happen.

Let’s Meet…………..Rick Doelle

At the Hamilton Literacy Council, staff and volunteers form a homogenous group, working towards our goal of advancing Literacy.  Rarely is the curtain drawn back to take a peek at the lives we lead beyond the walls of the “Y”.   Through this blog, we hope to shine a light on the amazing people that form the rich tapestry, that is the Hamilton Literacy Council.

Rick Doelle joined the HLC as a Computer Basics instructor in 2014.  His humour, witty one liners and infinite patience have endeared him to all.  Rick’s passion is SCUBA diving and it has taken him to diving sites in all corners of the world.  Let’s get Rick to speak for himself.

1. Rick, could you give us a brief glimpse into your career before you joined the Literacy Council?

My entire working career was at Dofasco, almost exclusively in the Research Department. Over the years I operated several pieces of equipment related to chemical analysis. At the end of my career, I was supervising a group of analysts.

2. How did you hear about the Literacy Council?

When I was still working at Dofasco, someone advertised the Council over the company network, as an opportunity for volunteering, for those who were interested. 

3. What made you volunteer?

At the time, I was close to retiring. I was already volunteering as a Group Fitness Leader at the company. I thought that after I retired, volunteering as a literacy tutor would help to keep me busy and still allow me to use the teaching skills that I had acquired over the years.

4. SCUBA diving is a passion. What got you started?

As a child, I was always interested in the TV series, “Sea Hunt.” After waiting quite a few years, I finally took a course and obtained my certification.

5. Can you tell us a bit about some of the more interesting sites you have been to?

At Kingston and Tobermory in Ontario, there are several wreck sites. These vary from wooden sailing vessels to more modern steel ships. In tropical waters, there are many interesting and diverse forms of marine life, both large and small, moving and stationary.

This YouTube link is for a video I put together, about tropical diving in Bonaire:

6. Apart from being able to swim, what makes a good diver?

A good diver needs to have good control of their anxiety level while in the water. Whether it’s an equipment issue or the marine life that’s encountered or a change in the underwater environment, a diver’s anxiety level can change. Staying calm and working through any difficulty is paramount. Taking a certification course helps to prepare a diver to participate in the underwater world.

7. Is there anything else you would like to say?

I got so involved with SCUBA diving that I became a diving instructor and I taught the sport for 20 years. I enjoy teaching, whether it’s the classes for the Literacy Council or for Scuba diving. I even obtained the certification and taught Group Fitness classes for 11 years.

8. Who is your favourite author? Why?

Presently, I don’t have a favourite author.  When I was in my early teens, I enjoyed Franklin W. Dixon, who wrote The Hardy Boys series. They were easy reads, suspenseful and provided intriguing “whodunnit” mysteries.

In the early 2000s, I read through the Horatio Hornblower series of books, written by C. S. Forester. I was interested in historical fiction, related to the large sailing naval ships of old. Since I had been diving on many, more recent, wrecks of sailing ships, I was interested in reading about them and the associated fictional adventures.


Grammar, Anyone?

The Hamilton Literacy Council is in the business of teaching.  We love what we do but find it difficult to switch off the teaching mode, even on a blog.  So……. for anyone who is interested, here is Lesson 1.

Commas Matter








If you enjoyed the first lesson, watch this space for your next lesson.