From the Open Files of:

The Lutheran Resource Center, 641-357-4451

Contributed by:

Elaline Bergan, Lake Mills, IA

This file is available in
Rich Text Format version for editing

Literacy Promotion Skit

Characters: Ima Jean, Announcer, Trudy and 6 audience participants

Props: Table, two chairs, coffee cup, Lutheran Woman Today, Bible & newspaper.

Announcer: Statistics tell us that one out of five individuals in the United States is illiterate. This may surprise most of you, as we do not easily recognize those individuals. They have been very clever and adept at covering up their inadequacies.

Ima Jean, whom you see seated at her kitchen table, is one such person. Were it not for her deep, dark secret, the six people from our audience that you will see making requests of her would not be embarrassing her by asking for her help and participation in various projects.

One by one, you women in the audience who were asked in advance to be a part of the program will walk up to Ima Jean and request her to do what you will find written on your script. Audience I Lady will come up first after I sit down, and when Ima Jean has commented on the request, Audience 2 Lady will approach her until all six women have visited her. We see Ima Jean seated at her table with her cup of coffee and a newspaper that she is looking at. Audience I Lady, you may begin.

Audience I Lady: Ima Jean, I see you've been reading our local newspaper. Wasn't that quite a story about the RSVP program that a couple ladies from town initiated at the school?

Ima Jean: Well, er, ah, it really was.

Audience I Lady: I think it's really neat the retired people of our community are willing to volunteer several hours a week at the school to help the teachers by working with students with special needs.

What I'm here for today is to ask you to do something. I've often observed how well you relate with children. I'm on the library board and we are looking for volunteers to read to children during Story time at the library once a week. All you would need to do is read several short children's books that the librarian will have selected in advance.

Ima Jean: Oh, no, I'm afraid I couldn't. (Shakes head) Saturdays are always such busy days for me, cleaning, washing clothes and getting ready for Sunday. I'm really sorry. I hope you will be able to find somebody who can help you.

(Audience I Lady leaves stage)

Ima Jean:(lays head on table briefly, then lifts it to speak) There's nothing I'd like better to do than read to those children - if only I could! When Bess asked me if I'd read about the RSVP volunteers, I just couldn't tell her that I didn't read about it in the paper, but I had heard some of the ladies talk about it, and I recognized their group picture in the paper - at least I think, that's what their picture was all about.

Audience 2 Lady: We need a homeroom mother in school, and I promised the teacher I'd find one for her. You would be such a good one, Ima Jean. I've often eaten your goodies and you are such a wonderful cook! I just know you could really think up some creative and delicious goodies for the children's homeroom parties. Your main responsibility would be to write notes to some of the mothers soliciting goodies and include recipes for them.

Ima Jean: (Shakes head) I'm really not that good a cook. I know there has to be somebody else who could do a better job than I could. I really don't feel I have the time either. Furthermore, I might be going to work soon.

Audience 2 Lady: I'm sorry to hear that, but it's true that if you do get a job, you wouldn't be available to help with the homeroom activities. (Audience 2 Lady leaves)

Ima Jean: A job, my eye! Nobody would hire a dummy like me; anyway, it was a good excuse. There's nothing I'd like better than to be a homeroom mother, but if I can't read, I surely can't write notes to the mothers, let alone copy recipes. I can't even read my own recipes for the cakes and cookies that I bake. Either my husband or children have to read them for me. It's fortunate that I can memorize quickly, and I do have several favorite recipes down pat.

Audience 3 Lady: Say, Ima Jean, will you please sign this petition asking our city council to pass a law that all the dogs in town should be chained or kept confined. Dogs have really been a nuisance of late.

Ima Jean: I know. A dog was barking beneath our bedroom window all last evening. It was hard to get to sleep. Finally my husband opened the window and threw his bedroom slipper down at the dog. When he went outside to retrieve the slipper in the morning, the dog had carried it away. What revenge on the dog's part! (hesitantly) I don't really know if I should sign the petition, though; my neighbor who owns the dog might get mad at me. Why don't you see if my husband will sign it. After all, I think he was the most bothered by the barking.

(Audience 3 Lady nods head and leaves)

Ima Jean: (Pounds fist on table) Shucks! I would really like to have signed that petition. I can write my name, but I've gotten too paranoid to sign anything that I'm not able to read. I probably should trust my neighbor, but then again - I'll just never let anyone know how illiterate I am. I feel so stupid, I could crawl in a hole.

Audience 4 Lady: Hello, Ima Jean. I'm here to ask if you'd serve on the election board this fall. There will be a training session at the courthouse a couple weeks prior to working at the polls. You'll receive a packet of information that will lead you step by step through the proper procedures to follow.

Ima Jean: I'm afraid I wouldn't be able to help. You see that is such a busy time of the year for me. My mother expects me to come home to help her clean house about that time of the year, and I can't disappoint her now that she is so old.

Audience 4 Lady: No, I don't suppose you can. (She leaves.)

Ima Jean: Wow! Too busy! Maybe the busiest things I have to do are thinking up excuses about not doing this or that whenever I'm asked. Some of my excuses get pretty flimsy, I'm afraid. I just couldn't admit that I don't even vote because I can't read the ballots.

Audience 5 Lady: Ima Jean, your name was included in our new circle list for the coming year. We would so much like to have you join our group. This next year's Bible study should be very interesting and thought provocative. I'm sure we will all continue to grow in the faith throughout the year's lessons.

Ima Jean: I've always been inactive. I know you are all lovely ladies, and I would enjoy meeting with you, but I'm not able to become involved now, I'm afraid. But if you need a cake or bars for funeral lunches, count me in. I could even help do the serving if you need extra help.

Audience 5 Lady: Great! Sorry you aren't able to be with us though. (Audience 5 Lady leaves)

Ima Jean: Uff da! I'm running out of good excuses to use. How I would love to be with that group of ladies for circle, but since I can't read, how could I ever study the Bible? I'm too shy and embarrassed to ever, ever let anyone knew my horrible secret.

Audience 6 Lady: I've heard you sing in church, Ima Jean; you have a beautiful voice. Would you consider joining the choir? We really need some more alto voices.

Ima Jean: I do love to sing, but I feel it's more important to sit with my family in church. No, I don't think now is a good time for me to be a choir member.

Audience 6 Lady: Well, I tried anyway. Thanks, anyway. (Leaves)

Ima Jean: Oh, I do love to sing, I do, I do! The choir director didn't know that, the only songs I sing in church are the ones I've memorized. Anyway, I really feel it is important for our family to worship together in church, but I do wish I could read the words of the hymns that I'm not familiar with.

I'm so depressed. All I've been thinking about are the many things I've had to turn down because I can't read or write. Worse yet, the stress of scheming, making excuses and trying to hide my problems is almost more than I can take. At least I don't have a job where I have to finagle help from others to get by. I did tell that lady that I might take a job in the future, but I'm sure it won't be yet when the children are still home. I suppose the only kind of job I could handle would be washing dishes in a restaurant or housecleaning or something like that. All I could expect to earn would be the minimum wage, I'm sure. I believe my time is more valuable at home.

Maybe if I turn on the television, I'll get over my depression. (Gets up and turns on an imaginary television set)

Announcer: I have a special public service announcement to make today from our area community college. (Name the community college in your area) has trained a number of volunteer tutors who are waiting to be matched up with anyone needing literacy help in our area. If you are such a person, you are invited to call the college; the toll-free number to call is 1-800-561-8900. The literacy coordinator will match you up with a compatible tutor who will meet with you on a one-to-one basis in a private setting so there will be no need for embarrassment of any kind.

Ima Jean: That sure sounds like something I need.

Announcer: Having a learning disability or having grown up under circumstances that did not allow you to learn your necessary literacy skills is nothing to be ashamed about. Admitting your need is a brave step forward towards a better life, higher self-esteem and greater employment opportunities.

(Ima Jean turns off television and the announcer leaves.)

Ima Jean: Strange, isn't it? I've been sitting here thinking about everything I can't do because I'm illiterate and just as I turn on the television, there seems to be a solution to my problems. The Lord provides, I guess. I just think I'm going to "Go for it." Maybe a miracle will happen and "those crazy little black marks that seem to dance all over the pages" will begin to have meaning for me.

Announcer: (returns to center of stage to indicate passage of time.)

And a miracle did happen for Ima Jean. She was assigned to a tutor named Trudy, a lady from her hometown who had much patience and provided the motivation Ima Jean needed. A year passed very quickly and progress had been made. Let's eavesdrop on one of their reading sessions. (Trudy had joined Ima Jean at the table while the announcer was speaking.)

Ima Jean: Trudy, you've been such encouragement for me. To think, I'm able to read stories from my book now. I don't feel quite as dumb as I used to.

Trudy: You weren't dumb, Ima Jean. in fact, many illiterates are quite intelligent; they just need the proper training to cope with their learning disabilities. Not only do we meet a couple times a week, but you work hard at home, too. That's what learning to read takes - practice, practice, practice.

Ima Jean: I know. If only I could go back to First Grade again and learn then what I'm learning now, life would have been so much more simple for me. I wouldn't have had to bring home so many F's on my report cards and the other kids wouldn't have teased me so much about being dumb.

Trudy: I know. Your classmates didn't understand that you were not stupid, but were burdened with learning problems that they were fortunate not to have shared with you. Those are not good memories, I am sure. Rather dwell on the blessings you have received by learning to read with the Laubach method. Being able to read is not knowledge, but merely the tool by which knowledge is attained.

Ima Jean: That is so true. It's no wonder I never got passing grades in school when I couldn't read the textbooks, and I surely couldn't write tests, either, when I hadn't learned to write.

Trudy: Yes, the two go together, the two most important tools we have in education. I like teaching the Laubach way. Associating pictures with the alphabet helps students remember the letters.

Ima Jean: You haven't even laughed at me when I might say "snake" for the letter "s" or "hand" for the letter "h".

Trudy: No, I never will laugh at anyone who has learning and reading difficulties.

Ima Jean: I do give you permission to smile, though.

Trudy: Good. We do have a good working relationship, don't we. Laubach was a missionary to the Philippines years ago. He had developed this reading system for volunteer tutors to use to teach the natives to read. In order to learn about God's plan of salvation from the Word, people need to know how to read words.

Ima Jean: So true. Reading the Bible through is one of my first goals when I become a better reader. I can scarcely wait for myself to be able to say, "Ima Jean, I'm a literate person."

Trudy: Well, as Trudy, the tutor (points to self) would say, Ima Jean, you are well on your way."

Ima Jean: How long will you be able to help me?

Trudy: I'm here for you now, tomorrow and however long it takes you to reach the goal you set for yourself at the beginning. of our sessions. You will know when you feel confident reading by yourself. Just remember, I am helping you because I care about you and because I know I am doing God's will as I continue to help one of God's children become whole.

Ima Jean: I certainly never felt whole before when I was completely illiterate.

Trudy: No, being whole is having the ability to use every gift and talent that God has given you. You will use those gifts and talents when you feel self-sufficient with the needed tools of literacy.

Ima Jean: God bless you and everyone else like you who is helping people like me learn to read and write.

Announcer: (Stands on middle stage, Trudy leaves and Ima Jean remains frozen in place)

And so, Ima Jean and Trudy continued on and on until Ima Jean became proficient with her literacy skills.

For those of you who have never experienced the problem of illiteracy, I would like to inform you that a whole new world was opened up for Ima Jean. She is now able to read her newspaper instead of only look at the pictures. She is able to accept a homeroom mother assignment, work on an election board, join a Bible study group or sign a petition without having any qualms. She will be able to read books to her children, grandchildren when they arrive or story time books for children at the library. She will be able to sing hymns in church as she reads the words of new hymns. She will be able to read books for pleasure and also the Bible because now she can read the words. They no longer dance around on the pages without having any meaning, but they now speak messages to her.

Ima Jean may look for a job when the time in her life is right for it; the job need not be a low-paying minimum wage job, but one that pays well for her abilities. Her family will be proud of her, and she will hold her head high as the newly learned self-esteem becomes reality to her.

Never before has our society needed skilled and proficient workers as we do today in our high tech world. The computer age requires employees to be skilled in the basics of reading, writing, communication, math and keyboarding. As we travel down the information highway today, vie need to be able to decode and encode words as Ima Jean has been learning to do. Everybody needs the basic tools of reading and writing to succeed in the workplace, home and church.

We may be surprised to learn that there are more white adults today that cannot read than there are of other races. Did you know that 75% of unemployed individuals have low reading and writing skills? One out of ten drivers on the highways cannot read the road signs. It is stated that there are 44% of American adults who did not read one single book during the year. Statistics can be shocking.

Americans, wake up! If you are an Ima Jean, how about following her actions and rise above your illiteracy. If you know someone who needs tutorial help in literacy, how about speaking to them about working on their problems. Every time we speak about literacy we are doing something for the cause.

The goal of literacy programs is not only to raise the reading levels of adults, but to enhance the quality of their lives through the acquisition of literacy skills that enable them to better employment and lifelong learning.

Let's return to Ima Jean and see what she is doing after meeting with her tutor for about three years.

Ima Jean: Here I am, studying my circle Bible lesson (takes off glasses and wipes eyes). I really don't feel illiterate anymore. (Bows head as she offers a prayer) Thank you, God, for literacy programs and tutors like Trudy. Thank you for setting me free - no more secrets!

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