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Literacy Council is more than a place to learn to read

January 15th, 2012 6:22 pm by Staff Report

Literacy Council is more than a place to learn to read

Ralph Buck works with his current tutor, Leigh Anne Hoover, at the Literacy Council of Kingsport.

The Literacy Council of Kingsport is much more than a place where adults go to learn to read. It is also a place where many students learn "life skills," according to Nada Weekley, executive director, Literacy Council of Kingsport.

Take Ralph Buck, for example.

Originally from Niagara Falls, N.Y., Buck is a familiar face in downtown Kingsport. He can be spotted downtown, walking to class with his book bag or riding his bicycle to go study.

When he was born, the umbilical cord was wrapped around his neck, which deprived him of oxygen and made learning a lifelong struggle. Despite his struggle with reading, Buck always managed to live independently. When he moved to Kingsport, a local businessman, John Faiz, took Buck under his wing and encouraged him to seek reading assistance at the Literacy Council.

He started classes in 2007 and quickly progressed and was determined to learn to read. Weekley initially worked with Buck and, at one point, he revealed that he could not hear what she was saying.

"We got him a hearing aid, which had a huge impact on his learning and his life," she said.

Before Buck started tutoring at the Literacy Council, he was extremely shy and self-conscious about talking. With the help of the hearing aid and the Literary Council, Buck has come out of his shell.

His current tutor, Leigh Anne Hoover, encouraged him to attend church with her at First Broad Street United Methodist Church. Not only is Buck a church regular, but his fellow brothers in Christ have embraced him. When the congregation learned Buck loved to receive mail, especially postcards, members kept his mailbox full, telling him of their travels and adventures. This past Christmas, he received close to 80 Christmas cards.

His most cherished piece of mail, however, is a personalized letter from Clemson President Jim Barker. Hoover is a Clemson alum and has turned Buck into a Tiger fan. This fall, the pair was reading a story about Kingsport native and Clemson football standout, Coty Sensabaugh. Buck was impressed with Sensabaugh’s dedication to football, and was pleased to see that Sensabaugh said the game took "dedication and patience," the same phrase Buck applies to learning to read.

In the last five years, Buck has gone from being a non-reader to now reading short chapter books and being able to complete basic medical forms. He always shares his new postcards with his tutors, and closes every tutoring session by reading "The Lord’s Prayer."

When talking about life before his involvement with the Literacy Council, Buck is often moved to tears. It isn’t uncommon either for Buck to become emotional when reading messages from his church brothers, especially when they refer to him as their "brother in Christ."

If you want to send Ralph Buck a personal note, his address is: Ralph Buck, 163 Cherokee St., Apt. 2, Kingsport, TN 37660. (Hand-printed correspondence is preferred).

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