Man Learns To Read At 47 After Keeping His Illiteracy A Secret His Whole Life

“Four years of tutoring and now the sky is the limit!”

Approximately 32 million Americans can't read, according to a study from the U.S. Department of Education. Norman Brown was one of these people until he was 47 years old. 

Despite the fact that he couldn't read, Brown made his way through the educational system in Bakersfield, Calif. up until the 10th grade. "Back then, they sort of set you aside," he told ABC News. "I don't know how I got to the 10th grade. This is insane that I went so far in school."

He kept his illiteracy from everyone. "If the kids found out that you couldn't read, you're done. Anywhere you go, they're going to pick on you," Brown said. In 2014, a study from Central Connecticut State found Bakersfield to be the least literate city in the United States.


As an adult, Brown struggled to fill out job applications because he couldn't read them. He needed close friends to help him fill out basic paperwork.

But at 47, Brown decided it was time to change the quality of his life. He signed up for weekly tutoring at the Kern Literacy Council, a nonprofit organization dedicated to empowering individuals to improve their reading skills. The organization serves both adults and children.

Learning to read boosted Brown's confidence and helped him to launch his own business — an auto body shop which repairs old cars. 

"Four years of tutoring and now the sky is the limit, baby!" Brown told ABC News. "Step aside because I'm coming through. I can't stress enough for men and women out there that can't read, just go to class. Do whatever it takes to get into a tutoring program and do it because life will be a lot better. It really will."

Want to positively change someone's life through reading? There are literacy programs around the country where you can volunteer to teach adults and kids how to read. You can help to empower people to reach their full potential and participate more fully in their communities. To learn more, visit

(H/T: ABC News


Subscribe to our newsletter and get the latest news and exclusive updates.