Adult Learning Program Featured in The Commercial Appeal

Friday, Aug 11, 2017

We loved seeing our wonderful learner featured in this article from The Commercial Appeal! Here's the text:

Slow and steady wins the race

If you asked Frank Tate, 60, what his biggest goal in life is he'd say that he wants to write an autobiography.

“You know, something that Frank Tate would be remembered by," he said.

While the motivation and discipline required to write one's entire life story is difficult for the average person, Tate faces an additional challenge — he's lived his entire adult life reading and writing on a third grade level.

Put into classes for remedial students in high school, Tate says that he was written off as "illiterate" and that when the time came, he was cleared for graduation despite his low reading level.

Tate was resigned to living his life the way he was: getting help from those around him to read simple sentences, struggling to express himself on paper, and carrying a secret shame — when something changed.

“I had just turned 50 and I figured, I’m going to die not knowing how to read," Tate said.

A few years after this epiphany, he decided to take action, and reached out to the tutors at Literacy Mid-South for help.

“I thought, I have all this time on my hands, why not educate myself?" said Tate, a Mississippi native who has been living in Memphis for the past 50 years.

Since starting his training, Tate has attended reading and writing courses every week at Literacy Mid-South, and while his progress has been slow, his improvements are noticeable.

"New learning experiences and being in new environments stimulates your cognitive and learning ability," said Hill. "You can't measure the value of learning."

Molly Polatty, a volunteer tutor with Literacy Mid-South has been working with Tate for the past five years.

"(Frank) is always positive, always hardworking and he is always happy to be here," Polatty said.

Tate describes the moment last year when he realized that his reading abilities had truly improved.

“One day I was sitting up at the library, and my teacher was asking us to read a pamphlet and I read the whole pamphlet without tripping up,” Tate said.

“Now I can go through several books without tripping up and I enjoy it.”

study released in May by the American Association for the Advancement of Science, analyzed the effects of literacy development in older adults.

The study found that changes in how the brain forms and reorganizes connections begin to develop after only six months of literacy training for adults with mature brains.

Tate says he plans to continue taking classes at Literacy Mid-South indefinitely.

“Just because I’m old and don’t have a 9-to-5 doesn’t mean I have to stop,” Tate said.

“I can inspire someone else to do what I’m doing.”