When he was a child, reading was secondary to survival for Jim Nicholas, 30, of Sterling Heights. Shuttling back and forth between New York and Michigan with his sick mother left him little time or motivation to go to school.
But about a year and a half ago, he looked at his preschool-age son and realized things had to change.
“I don’t want to be embarrassed in front of him. I want to be able to help him with his homework,” says Nicholas, who has worked as a cook, a car detailer and a filmmaker.
Through Macomb Literacy Partners, Nicholas was paired with Frank Kern, 69, a retired bank employee. Since then, Nicholas has gone from being nearly illiterate and dependent on a GPS unit to reading at a sixth-grade level.
“He’s come a long way,” says Kern, who meets with Nicholas one to three times a week for about two hours a session. They often reread the same material and work through words from the previous session. “It’s very hard work.”
Macomb Literacy Partners is geared toward those who read below a junior high level or are learning English as second language.
About 130 tutors meet with about 155 students — numbers that Paula Stinson, placement coordinator, would like to see at least double with the help of Reading Works.
What’s behind illiteracy is as different for each person as what fixes it, says Stinson.
“A lot of this one-on-one tutoring is best for slow learners who may get lost in a classroom,” she says.
Nicholas’ success is exciting, she says. His mother is still alive, he says, and is proud of his progress — he has gone from learning by watching to reading Stephen King.
“Everything I lay my hand on, I read,” Nicholas says. “God’s been really good to us.”
Profile by Megha Satyanarayana/Detroit Free Press
Photography by Kathleen Galligan/Detroit Free Press
More profiles of people from these Reading Works partner literacy agencies: ACCESS | Beyond Basics | Detroit Literacy Coalition | Dominican Literacy Center | Mercy Education Project | Macomb Literacy Partners | Oakland Literacy Council | Siena Literacy Center | Another Chance (Wayne State University)