How to speak to a non-reader about Alta

i Mar 22nd No Comments by

After a successful student recruitment campaign last September, Alta registered and welcomed over 800 new students to literacy classes around the country. Walk-in students are currently being accepted at select venues and you are encouraged to share this information with persons who may need it. 

Many persons know someone who needs Alta – it may be someone you work with, someone you meet while running errands or they may be a friend or family member. Fortunately, there is still space in Alta classes around the country for them but sometimes it’s a difficult topic to broach – especially with someone you may not be familiar with.  How should you tell them about Alta? Last week, Alta shared some guidelines for potential situations which may be helpful when speaking to non-readers about Alta classes. Today, the column explores two other situations which can assist.
It’s important to remember that students are easily scared back into “hiding” due to the stigma of low literacy, so:
  • Be discreet: Once you can, choose a private place and time to talk and stay away from the words ‘illiterate’ and ‘slow’. Use ‘difficulties with reading or writing’ or ‘improve your reading & writing’ versus ‘learn to read and write’
  • Be relatable: Draw from personal challenges with mastering a new skill and show the parallels between this and the skills of reading/writing/spelling. Normalise the idea of going from a state of not-knowing to knowing.

Situation 1 – This situation is ideal for a workplace or when dealing with someone you may not know very well.


“I’ve noticed that you need some help to (insert reading related task, e.g. complete this form, sign your name, write report).
Lots of times we struggle to master a task, even when it comes easy to others. I remember having difficulty with Y (insert something here, e.g. three-point turns, sewing, learning dance steps, reading or spelling). Would you say that’s
true for you when it comes to reading/writing?
Reading, spelling and writing are skills and some have a talent for it, others don’t – the same way some people can sing or kick a football better than others. If you don’t have a talent for reading and writing, you can still become a good
at it, you just need more teaching than those with a talent for it.
There are options out there to help adults get better at this. It won’t be easy, but it will be worth it. How does that sound? Would you be interested in finding out more?


Situation 2 – This situation is best if you notice the person has a spelling problem but it can be used in almost any other situation, as it is generally more socially acceptable to admit to spelling problems than reading or writing problems. This can work for both strangers you interact with and persons you may know well.


“English spelling is real tricky.  I always have problems with the word (x,y,z). The good thing is that there are options out there to help adults who want to work on their spelling.  It won’t be easy but it will be worth it. Would you be
interested in finding out more?’


 Situation 3 – This is suitable for an informal talk with a friend, family member, co-worker etc. in a high paced environment.


I’ve noticed that you require some help to do X (reading-related task).
It’s not a big deal…it’s just another skill like sewing, cooking or driving! Many people have these issues and have struggled with reading for years!
If you want to work on these skills there are options out there to help! It may not be easy but it will be worth it. Would you be interested in finding out more?


If the person is interested in finding out more, tell them about Alta! Here’s a guide if you need it:

 Alta has free classes around the country for adults who want to improve their spelling/reading/writing. Everyone in the class are adults and there to learn. It’s a happy space because the students are doing something positive for
themselves. It’s not like the classroom you remember from school. Alta tutors are volunteers who want to be there so they take their time and ensure you understand what you’re being taught. Many Alta students are successful
business people or talented individuals who just have difficulty with reading or spelling. Alta can teach you skills and show you strategies to improve your reading. Contact Alta at 624-ALTA or 741-9454.