When Eddie Davey's wife died last year, he no longer had anyone to help him fill out job resumes, read menus, or decipher the simple directions on a box of oatmeal.
Davey couldn't do it himself because, at the age of 49, he couldn't read."It's hard going through life depending on someone to always help you, and now that I have to do it myself, I just realized how hard it really is," he said.
The realization drove Davey to the Literacy Action Center to learn how to read. The day Davey talked to the Deseret News, he had spent nearly seven hours at his kitchen table poring over his new reading book.
"It's hard; sometimes I don't think I'm learning anything, but I know I am," he said.
Davey, who grew up in Salt Lake City, never really learned to read after being in and out of "just about every school in the valley" and finally being kicked out of his household at age 13 by a stepfather.
Thrown out into the real world as a teenager, Davey took dishwashing jobs and set pins at a bowling alley for a living. Like many people who are functionally illiterate, Davey doesn't read because he was forced from school to fend for himself circumstances for which he is hardly responsible.
Unable to read and living in a world thriving on written information poses its share of logistical hardships, like coping with filling out job applications that look like line after line of hieroglyphics.
But the real challenge for many functionally illiterate adults is suffering the pain and humiliation of being unable to conquer basic reading skills that most people learn in the second grade.
"Its embarrassing . . . when the bills come and you have to take the bills to the kids and have them make them out for you," he said.
But the day will come when Davey will be able to read the bills himself. He is working hard, under the tutelage of Dory Donner, LAC staffer and a program tutor, to fulfill his goal of someday learning to read.
What will he do with the new-found skill?
Read to his daughter, he said in a voice choked with anticipation. And read to himself, admitting that even after two short months with Literacy Action, he finds it difficult to put down a book he can actually read.
"I guess it's just knowing I can turn page after page, the words are coming a lot easier. Before, I couldn't even get the words, I can't believe it sometimes," he said, trying unsuccessfully to conceal his adulation.
But Davey's greatest goal, once he learns to read, will be to read well enough to help others in the LAC program.
"I know how hard it is, I'd just like to be able to tell someone, `if I can learn, you can learn,' " he said.