Shining example: Poet tells of path from illiteracy to printPublished 5:21pm Saturday, October 5, 2013
Edward Earl Mills was put on the spot at church one night when he was asked to read a Bible passage for the congregation. The problem was that at 44 years old, Mills couldn’t read. No one knew except his wife.
Mills will share the story of his path from illiteracy to becoming a published poet today at 2 p.m. at Washington’s First United Methodist Church. The program is sponsored by the Literacy Volunteers of Beaufort County and Friends of the Brown Library.
“I heard the feature on Public Radio East that they did on him last fall and I wrote it down to see if we couldn’t get him to come,” said Pat Lurvey, director of training and board member of the local literacy volunteers. “I thought it would be good program to kick off our fall tutoring.”
Mills will read from his collection of poetry, “From Illiterate to Poet,” during his hour-long presentation.
According to Lurvey, Mills’ inability to read being unexpectedly outed is not an unusual story.
“Evidently that happens, because I’ve had more than one person tell me that has happened to them in church,” Lurvey explained. “You can hide it — people have successfully hidden it for years.”
Mills chose to do something about it, however. On the recommendation of a friend, he contacted a literacy organization and four years later was able to read his first book.
Lurvey said stories like Mills’, and his tough road to literacy, make the achievement all the more admirable.
“It’s a lot of work to come back and try to learn and remember and stick with it,” she said. “It’s tough to go back to school after you become an adult and have responsibilities. You have to really admire when they come in, especially the people who start with so little background.”
The event marks the fall tutoring kickoff for the Literacy Volunteers, as they kick back into gear after a summer slowdown. Lurvey said the changing, and more taxing, requirements for GED testing set to go into effect Dec. 31 means an upswing in the number of those being tutored. The team of 40 volunteers is also in the market of training some students for Career Readiness Certifications.
Mills’ appearance may be the launch of fall tutoring, but Lurvey is hoping the program will also have deeper meaning for some attendees.
“He’s going to tell us little bit about his life and why he didn’t get to learn to read and how he did,” Lurvey said. “Then he’s going to read some of his poems. So we’re hoping folks will come out and be inspired by him.”
Mills will speak at Wesley Hall of the First United Methodist Church in Washington.