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Human Interest

64-Year-Old Tennessee Man on Learning to Read for the First Time: ‘It Opens Up a Whole World’

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With endless determination, a Tennessee man has learned to read at 64-years-old.

“I had a rough life,” Ralph Burns, who was abandoned as a child and had to drop out of school in the third grade, tells WVLT-TV. “I was sometimes embarrassed, but I got over that.”

Although Burns made a good living as a pastor, painter and playing the guitar in bars and at weddings and charities, he never gave up on his dream to read. That’s when he came to Friends of Literacy, an organization that teaches adults how to read for free.

It was there that he met Sydney Osborne, a volunteer and his teacher.

“I’ve been through 50 to 100 teachers. No one taught me. She’s got that gift though,” he says about Osborne.

Together, they worked for two hours a week for a year and half.

“He didn’t know the letters of alphabet or the sounds that went with the letters,” Osborne told the news outlet.

Burns, who says he loves school, is now reading on a first-grade level and says he can go into a restaurant and almost read the menu.

“It’s open up a whole world,” he says.