Reading is something that most people take for granted. We learn it at a very young age, and by 3rd grade, most can read chapter books and such. But not everyone is as lucky. Some people weren’t taught how to read, people like 64 year old Ralph Burns.

“I was abandoned from a child. They gave me away and another guy raised me. He sent me to school, but they couldn’t learn me. They just let me sleep in school and they wouldn’t teach me or nothing,” said Burns.

He said that most of his teachers would often hire him to mow their lawns and other chores around their houses. But when he was 14, he stopped. He quit school and went on with his life, by himself.

“It’s hard to go anywhere without an education, but I had a lot of common sense,” commented Burns.

He had learned a skill, which made him some money. That still? Painting. Over the years, he has continued his painting,  and worked on farms and steel mills. Even has played his guitar (which he has played since he was five) at bars and weddings. He even has played for charity events.

But because he dropped out of school, he still never learned to read, which resulted in him even needing help ordering off of the menu at restaurants. But that all stopped four years ago, when a church friend referred him to Friends of Literacy, an organization that helps people to read.

He struggled with his first few tutors, but eventually found Sydney Osborne, who taught Burns the basics, and had begun with the alphabet.

“Sydney, I’m telling you right now, that girl can teach. Before her, I couldn’t read nothing. Nothing,” Burns said during an interview.

Sydney worked with Ralph, and she said that she treated him as if he were a kindergartener, since that was about all the knowledge he had when it came to reading.

And thanks to all of her hard work, Osborne is now reading at a first grade level. Burns said that he has spent his entire life compensating for his inability to read by observing people, and their choices, and just pay attention to what exactly they are saying.

“I’d go into a store and I’d be hungry, so I’d watch what people do and say. I’d say, ‘How much does this stuff cost’ or ‘Is this good to eat?’ “ said Burns.

But Burns no longer struggles to read the menus. He is learning and is showing remarkable improvements everyday. All because one person decided to take the time to help him.

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