90-year-old learns to read with a friendly computer

June 16, 1993|By Amy P. Ingram | Amy P. Ingram,Contributing Writer

For years, Hyacinth Queen pretended to read the Bible along with the others in church. No one knew her granddaughter read the passages to her at home. No one knew Mrs. Queen, co-founder of the Queenstown community in Glen Burnie, could not read.

Last year, deciding "it was about time to learn," Mrs. Queen, 90, enrolled in a literacy program with her granddaughter Hyacinth "Leona" Truxon. Now, she can finally read the Bible by herself.

Mrs. Queen credits the Glen Burnie Community Learning Center, sponsored by Anne Arundel Community College, for her success.

"I wanted to learn something before I go away from this world," she said. "At first I was bashful, considering how old I was. But here I found it's never too late to learn if you get it in your head."

"I used to read to her all the time," said Mrs. Truxon, 47. "She would call me at six in the morning and call me over to read her her mail or a newspaper or the Bible. I'm glad she can read on her own."

Mrs. Truxon joined her grandmother and signed up to take a refresher course. Although she had finished high school and attended college for a year, she felt the need to "refresh" herself on the basics. "I was tired of looking up words in the dictionary I should have known."

Two days a week they sit side by side, grandmother and granddaughter, in a room filled with computers and books. Mrs. Queen, who had never used a computer before, quickly adapted to the user-friendly modem and is now reading and comprehending at a middle school level.

The students learn by computer, not through a teacher lecturing at a chalkboard. Mrs. Queen, who sits for hours at a time at the terminal, said she loves using the computers.

But Sandy Miles, 71, was a little intimidated when he first entered the learning center.

"I was nervous when I came in," said Mr. Miles, who lives in Brooklyn Park with his granddaughter. "I'd never seen a computer like that."

Twice a week, Mr. Miles, his wife, Annie May, and 17-year old granddaughter Charmaine Adams visit the center. Mr. and Mrs. Miles are learning to read; Charmaine is preparing for her GED.

Mr. Miles, who sacrificed his education to take care of his 12 brothers and sisters, spent most of his life hiding the fact that he couldn't read.

"When I was doing construction work, I had to write up contracts," he said. "But how could I write up contracts if I couldn't read? So I would have other people write them up for me. They could be wrong and I'd never know it."

Charmaine, who has read letters and newspapers to her grandfather for years, is proud of the progress her grandparents are making after only four months.

"Before he joined, my grandfather couldn't say things right," she said. "Now he can say things more clear and appropriate. And he can even read most department store signs."

For more information on the two learning centers in the county, call 974-8752.

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