Deidra’s story is like so many others. Our founder, Deidra Mayberry, recently had a chance to sit down with Fox 4’s Lauren Przybyl on Good Day to talk about her struggles with illiteracy earlier in her life, as well as what Reading to New Heights is now doing to help the people of Dallas County.
As the interview details, Deidra’s journey hasn’t been easy. One of seven children, she was part of a military family that moved constantly. With each new school, she found herself slipping further and further behind her classmates as they learned to read— and she didn’t.
Soon she found herself in special ed classes, and intentionally got to school late so no one would see her enter that classroom. She stayed there for three years. Even after she was moved back into regular classrooms, she fell behind, having missed three years of normal study.
Seeking any form of community and acceptance from the peers who had academically left her behind, she turned to people pleasing. “It took alot of work. A lot of prep before and after class. Alot of faking, trying to be the class clown, just to not be exposed.”
Things only got worse as she got older. In high school, when she told a guidance counselor about her dream of becoming a psychologist, she was told that it wouldn’t be possible— her grades just weren’t good enough. She struggled and found a way to graduate, and even went on to pursue a degree in business administration, but barely kept a C average.
Finally Deidra opened up to a trusted friend about her illiteracy. This friend started helping her, but she needed professional education. And she couldn’t find it. “That was the struggle. Knowing I needed the support, I couldn’t find anything.” Most illiteracy programs outside the school system are for children.
Embarrassment is the #1 factor prohibiting adults from learning to read. Like Deidra, so many illiterate adults feel shame for not measuring up to their peers. The #2 factor, meanwhile, is probably cost. It should come as no surprise that illiteracy is generally paired with poverty. The illiterate usually cannot afford to spend thousands of dollars to learn to read, and their lack of reading comprehension cycles back into their poverty.
When she finally did learn to read, Deidra determined to help others in her situation. “I just always had the dream that one day I would support people like myself and give them a program so that they, too, could better themselves.”
She founded Reading to New Heights to eliminate both major barriers: cost and shame. A major goal of RTNH has been raising awareness for adult illiteracy. It’s more common than you might think. 35% of Dallas County residents read below a basic level. Your illiterate friends are not alone in this struggle.
As for the cost factor, the organization takes care of that, as well. It’s completely free. But that doesn’t mean a drop in quality. “All of our volunteers are certified educators. When you’re dealing with adults, it’s really important that you have that background to be able to help navigate through what you may be challenged with.
“The goal was to make sure no one experienced the limitations I did, the hopelessness. Because there’s so much more inside that I wanted to do, but I didn’t have the skillset to do it. I didn’t want to just bring a problem, but to bring a solution.”
Deidra’s story is like so many others. If you know someone with a similar story, tell them about Reading to New Heights. They can start rewriting that story today.