Kern County man learns how to read after 47 years

BAKERSFIELD, Calif. - A Kern County man who spent over 40 years without knowing how to read is now writing his own book about his life.

23ABC’s, 'If you give a child a book campaign,' helps highlight the need for family literacy for those living in poverty and we spoke to one man who says without the help of the Kern Literacy Council and missions like the campaign to put books on the table for families he would still be homeless.

It was the pages of books that helped Norman Brown turn a page in his life, "I was hiding from everybody," Brown said.

Brown said he kept a secret to himself for over 45 years, "I didn't tell anyone that I couldn't read, few of my family members knew but that was it," Brown said.

During his adolescent years, Brown said he slipped through the cracks of the education system because of his unstable upbringing, where he jumped from house to house, state to state and school to school with his parents. "One of the toughest parts was going into a new classroom and they come into the class and say this is Norman Brown say hello, ok Norman you can go sit down over there and then you would sit there like a lump and just try to do the best you could, and eventually got kind of moved back to the back."

All together Brown attended over 19 different schools so he dodged the reading curve more than a few times as a new student. It was in his adult life that Brown decided to make a change. Brown had been living out of his car for over a year and he said others were trying to take advantage of the fact that he couldn't read. "I had somebody write a check out for me and I had to mail off today and overnight and they stole the carbon so at that time I realized I am going to get ripped off if I don't get my act together and learn how to read."

From there Brown checked himself in at the Kern Literacy Council for reading tutorial sessions, hoping to start from square one. The first go around was unsuccessful due to scheduling issues he had. Brown stayed persistent and enrolled again, vowing to make a change for good, "With a tutor, three days a week," Brown said.

Brown began to gain a love for reading, "All these little stories and they were really easy enough for me to read that I got joy out of it," Brown said with a smile.

After four years of Kern Literacy Council sessions he felt as if he was uncovering his potential for the first time, "I just felt like there is so much power, incredible I could be a doctor, scientist, I could be anything I want in the world just open a book and apply yourself," Brown said.

Now he hopes that by overcoming illiteracy and by writing his first autobiography, that his story helps someone else turn the page too, "So it's really about a young man that didn't learn to read or write until he was 47 years old," Brown said.

Brown received awards of recognition from the Kern Literacy Council for his fierce motivation towards reading. He said he also gained more confidence and a better job along the way because of his new skills.

Brown hopes to have his autobiography out sometime next summer.

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