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Successful illiterate men Clark, Roger A.

Abstract

Despite widespread concern and many attempts to eradicate illiteracy, it persists. Part of the problem is that too little is known about the people for whom literacy programs are designed. Such programs may fail if they are designed by people who view their clientele as deficient. This perspective of deficiency is based on two assumptions: first, that literacy is a necessary pre-condition for success in life and second, that illiterate people are lacking in self-confidence, are unable to maintain employment, are poor, and are caught in a cycle of deprivation and under education. This study examines the characteristics and perceptions of illiterate men who have achieved varying degrees of financial and employment success but do not read beyond the grade-three level. The findings indicate that in spite of deficiencies in reading, illiterate individuals learn a number of coping techniques and manifest innumerable skills and achievements. Thus, a "deficiency" oriented intervention program that over-emphasizes the importance of literacy diminishes the observable accomplishments of the illiterate adult and may fail. Intervention programs designed for illiterate adults need to bolster the participants' sense of accomplishment and teach coping skills as well as literacy skills.

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