The Teacher Who Couldn’t Read

May 31, 2011

There’s a belief that literacy in developed, English-speaking countries is “an immigrant problem”, that people who were born in countries like Canada or the US are automatically literate. International surveys conducted in 1994 and 2003 proved that was a myth. The other day I did a post about what those two large-scale tests revealed about literacy rates in Canada.

One astounding fact revealed by IALSS (2003) that tested over 23,000 Canadians, was that 2% of Canadian-born university educated people scored at the lowest levels of literacy… below thousands of immigrants, in fact.

A news story from the US shows us that the situation may not be much different there. John Corcoran, a teacher from the United States who graduated from college with a grade 2 reading level, went on to become a professional teacher who hid his inability to read for years.

This interview from tells how Corcoran slipped through the cracks, how he adapted and coped in order to have a successful career and how he now runs a non-profit literacy foundation.

Corcoran is living proof that people born in affluent countries can still struggle with literacy. He’s also living proof that people can make tremendous progress as adults, building skills as lifelong learners.

Perhaps the most brilliant part is that Corcoran has learned to read… and write. Now he dedicates his life to helping others do the same.

Related posts:

Related posts

Canada’s 9 Literacy and Essential Skills

Literacy and Essential Skills (video)


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Sarah Elaine Eaton is a faculty member in the Werklund School of Education, University of Calgary, Canada.

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