Kurt Tarkington came to the Teen Challenge Training Center, which serves both teens and adults, in December 2002 and was assigned to work as a tutor in the Reading Room. Tarkington had never used any type of reading program before and felt overwhelmed at the challenge facing him. “Quite frankly, I could not remember how I learned to read,” Tarkington says. “It's a skill that has been there so long that I simply take reading for granted. I was struck by the enormous task of teaching an adult to do something that I could not break down into parts.”
When Tarkington began to use Reading Horizons, the program used at the center to teach literacy, his fears were quickly dispelled. He was amazed at the program’s simple, systematic approach that made learning to read an attainable goal. “I found an ally that was friendly, understandable, and effective,” Tarkington recalls. He quickly began to see success with his students.
Among Tarkington’s students was a 40-year-old man who could spell his name but could not use the letters in his name to spell other words. “The letters were just shapes that had no meaning,” says Tarkington. “I had no idea how to help him. The only thing I could think of was to see if Reading Horizons could help. So, we started together; letter—sound; letter—sound; letter—sound.” Tarkington encouraged his student to work hard, promising to be there for him every step of the way. Now, it brings tears to Tarkington’s eyes when he remembers the first time this student read a list of words. The man was able to read simple sentences by the time he left the center’s eight-month program.
One challenge had been overcome, but there are still many more to face. Tarkington continues to teach at the Teen Challenge Training Center, where overcoming the challenge of illiteracy has been transformed from a dream into an everyday reality.