Up until a year ago, when Linda Robertson needed a telephone number out of the phone book, she'd often call her neighbor, David Gaines, and ask him to look it up for her.
Phone books, cookbooks, letters, newspapers, books, her children's homework - it all looked like alphabet soup to Robertson, who lives in Pleasant Grove.Robertson, 42, attended schools in the Provo, Alpine and Nebo school districts while growing up but never learned to read.
"When teachers would (assign) book reports I'd never do my homework," she said. "You kind of fail. They (teachers) didn't bother finding out what the problem was because I did well in other classes that didn't have reading."
Robertson dropped out of school in the 11th grade to get married. She told her husband, Wayne, two years later she couldn't read; they'd been fighting because she couldn't figure out a recipe in a new cookbook. He thought she was kidding but soon realized she wasn't.
Four years ago, Robertson told her four children the real reason she had always let their dad help with homework. And last year she told her own brothers and sisters her embarrassing secret.
But all that is history.
After a year in the Provo Library's Project Read program, Robertson is well on her way to literacy.
"Now I'm telling everybody I can read," she said.
She's up to the fifth-grade reading level - she can read Dick and Jane level books. For a recent lesson, Robertson had to look up the phone numbers of the police and fire departments in her city.
"That was really interesting to me," she said. She attends one- to three-hour tutoring sessions twice a week and is about to begin the project's challenger program.
"It's just opened a whole new life," Robertson said. "I'm enjoying it. This whole year has changed my life - made it richer, opened doors for me."
Since learning to read, Robertson has become more assertive, outspoken and has a better self-image, according to her daughter, Teresa Robertson.That new assertiveness may pay off for the rest of her community. After commuting to the Provo Library for a year, Robertson is leading a campaign to get a Project Read program started in the north end of the county.
"There's a lot of people in my town that can't read," she said. "I want to get the program out to them."
The Provo Library is the only Utah County library with a Project Read program. Project Read is funded by United Way, Adult Basic Education and the Private Industry Council.
There are 97 pairs of non-readers and volunteer tutors participating in the program, according to Beth Robison, program director. Most non-readers in the program are between the ages of 30 and 50.
The Payson Library received two grants recently to start a satellite Project Read program. Five students currently enrolled at the Provo Library will transfer to the Payson program, Robison said.
Robertson is looking for a quiet room, free of interruptions, in Pleasant Grove or American Fork that could be used by Project Read. Robison is willing to train volunteers to work at a site in the north part of the county.
"My tax money built that library (in Pleasant Grove) as well as anybody else's," Robertson said. "I ought to be able to use the library."
The Pleasant Grove Library has no private rooms available during the hours it is open, and letting people use the library after hours is cumbersome; city officials are trying to find a room in another public building that Project Read could use.