Career Driven Auto Shop Owner Fulfills Life with Literacy
Posted by Jennifer Vecchiarelli on February 21, 2018 in categoryStudent Stories

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Illiteracy Cannot Stand in the Way

No matter how old a person is, learning to read and write is possible, and it can change a life.

Norman Brown, a native of Bakersfield, CA, one of America’s least literate cities, was 47 when he learned to read. 

Growing up, Brown felt like his glasses and frizzy hair contributed to why he felt like an outcast. But what really factored into his feelings was his inability to read. 

For Brown, the worst part of growing up without literacy skills was the classroom. During the majority of his school days, Brown could only read at a second-grade level. When he and his peers had to take turns reading in class, he would conjure up every excuse he could think of to get out of reading. Embarrassed, he didn’t want them to find out he could not read. It was his secret. “I would fake a nap, come up with a stomachache, or be a clown and get kicked out of class,” Brown said. 

Later in life, Brown felt like his low literacy caused him to miss out on many great job opportunities. Yet, he was able to hold a number of positions, but each had their challenges, including not being able to read road signs when he worked as a limo chauffer in Los Angeles. Later, he became a mechanic.

Making Strides with Literacy

In 2007, Brown found himself restless. He enjoyed his work, but he wanted to learn more and improve his work and quality of life. He began searching for help and stumbled on Kern Literacy Council. Since 1966, Kern Literacy Council has empowered individuals across Bakersfield to improve their quality of lives through literacy. 
“I knew if you could read a book, you could go anywhere in the world.”
—Norman Brown

Regardless of the conflicts with his work schedule, Brown eventually enrolled in Kern Literacy Council one-to-one tutoring, and began meeting with his tutor, Ed Western, every week.

There were several times Brown found himself wanting to quit, but with the comfort and inspiration provided by the literacy center, he ultimately gained confidence in himself and became successful in his literacy journey.

Brown now runs his own auto body shop where he gets to do what he loves—restore hot rods and antique cars. Without achieving his literacy goal, none of this would have been possible.

Brown has a message for others who keep their reading challenges a secret:

“Go to the local adult literacy council and see what they can do for you—they won’t laugh at you or tease you; they’re all about helping you read to make life easier on you. I used to walk into the library and feel this power that I can’t believe; this feeling that I could be anything in the world—a scientist, a doctor, a bookkeeper—if you just take the time and open up a book.”

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