You are the lucky 92 percent

By Amanda Lee – Executive Director of MARC

A few months ago, I was at the doctor’s office and a somewhat familiar scene played out before me. I found it unsettling and very sad. It gave me pause.

A forty-something woman was looking over the stack of medical papers she was supposed to sign before she could receive treatment. I could tell by how she shuffled the documents and the worried expression on her face that there was a massive problem. That problem? She could not read them.

I have been a reading tutor at Montcalm Area Reading Council (MARC) for several years and the executive director since January. I should not be surprised. I am used to working with adult learners.

But seeing one outside of my office reminds me just how much of a gift reading can be to a person. We forget just how much of our lives we read each day. We read everything from prescription labels, road signs, email and so much more. We are part of the lucky 92 percent.

Did you know that eight percent of Montcalm County and Ionia County residents 16 years and older lack basic literacy skills? Shocking isn’t it. We tend to forget that a sizable part of our population cannot read even at the level of the paper you have in your hands or on your screen.

I just let you in on a problem that you maybe didn’t know existed in Montcalm and Ionia counties. Now what? Perhaps this being Literacy Awareness Month is making you ponder your reading skills and passing them on to another person in need. After all, you have already decided to read the literacy special section of the paper.

We are always looking for tutors at MARC.No experience? No problem! We train. We only ask that you commit to meeting with your learner for six months and one hour a week. That is it.

So, the next time you are reading coupons to clip or the tiny print on your prescription bottle, think of that forty-something-year-old lady. She hasn’t come to my office yet, but I hope she will someday. I also hope that I can depend on you to help her learn to read.

For more information on the Montcalm Area Reading Council call 616 824- 2408 or email

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