* Photo by Sirkka Huish. Adult education: Consultant Susan Sentell is hosting a three-day workshop in the Wilson Reading System.
* Photo by Sirkka Huish. Adult education: Consultant Susan Sentell is hosting a three-day workshop in the Wilson Reading System.
Some adults are struggling to get jobs as they have the reading skills of primary school children.

Men and women across the island are said to want to work but are unable to secure jobs because they can't even read the application forms.

This is why the Adult Education Centre is trying to increase reading proficiency by focusing its efforts on adults who they believe are the "forgotten students."

The charity in Dundonald Street has called in an American reading consultant to teach new techniques to its teachers and volunteers.

Susan Sentell is this week hosting a three-day workshop in the Wilson Reading System. It is a highly specialised programme taught to individuals or small groups to ensure no one is left behind.

Absolute need

Donna Daniels, executive director of the Adult Education Centre, said there was "absolutely a need" in Bermuda.

She said: "People are looking for jobs but finding their literacy is holding them back.

"Most employers want a GED or high school diploma as a minimum requirement, so this can be the first road block.

"Some people can't even fill in job application forms as their skills just aren't up to scratch.

"It's a real problem especially in today's economic climate where more people are being made redundant.

"Other people want promotions but they don't have strong enough skills to move up the next step of the ladder in their company."

Ms Daniels added: "We are meeting this need and going full force into adult literacy. Our goal is to get people reading."

Staff at Adult Education teach up to 150 students aged 16 to 60 plus during the day, at night and at weekends. Each student undergoes a full academic assessment to assess their skills.

Eight students are currently being taught to read using the Wilson programme with "phenomenal results." Some students cannot read at all, while others are struggling with basic skills.

But staff know there are "so many more" people across the island who need their help.

Ms Daniels hopes the expansion of the Wilson Reading System will take adult education to "another level" with students "understanding the code of reading."

She knows it is not easy for adults to "face the reality and walk through the door." But urges those who are struggling with reading to pluck up the courage to "make the change."

Ms Daniels said: "Those who can't read hide it very well, they don't want people to know, they are embarrassed.

"They'll be unable to fill in a form at the doctors so they'll say they have forgotten their glasses and need assistance, they'll try to cover it up.

"There's no need to feel embarrassed, uncomfortable or anxious, we have very supportive, caring and nurturing staff. Students have fun and end up wanting more, they become hooked.

"Adults who come along not only learn to read but they also improve their outlook on life. People's self-esteem increases, they become more communicative and generally feel better in themselves. We can transform lives."

Bonnie McGlynn, academic co-coordinator at the Adult Education Centre, said: "We are very pleased with the progress of students using the Wilson programme.

"It is a programme tailored to the needs of the individual, no one gets left behind. Students remain committed as they can see their own progress."

Reading consultant Susan Sentell of Palm City, Florida, has a master's degree in learning difficulties and owns and operates her own reading clinic. She has been using the Wilson programme for 14 years and says she is a "very satisfied customer".

It is a systematic 12-step programme where sound cards and a magnetic letter board are used. Students are also encouraged to tap out the sounds of words.

Ms Sentell said: "Adult education is an issue that deserves more attention as adults are often the forgotten students.

"The Wilson programme helps people to get to grips with our language. It emphasizes how to decode a word and how to spell it in a multi-sensory way. People learn by saying, thinking and doing all at once."

Ms Sentell said she was already getting lots of positive feedback about her three-day workshop, which ends tomorrow.

If you know of someone struggling to read, they can visit the Adult Education Centre on Dundonald Street.

The Wilson Reading System is labour and time intensive and needs to be subsidized. If anyone wants to make a donation they should call 292-5809.