How is reading beneficial for us?

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Sophia Müller is 27 years old and lives in Dresden. She has no education, at 18 she became the mother of twins. And it's actually called differently. Most of her friends do not know that she cannot read and write properly. Hence the wrong name. Only her best friend knows "it". And her parents. But they also think that Sophia Müller shouldn't spread the word about “it”. You don't want talk.

Read a newspaper article? Impossible for functionally illiterate people

7.5 million people in Germany cannot read and write properly, according to a study by the University of Hamburg. At least no texts that are longer than a few sentences. Filling out a form at the office or reading an article in a magazine is overwhelming for her. This makes them “functionally illiterate,” as educational researchers say. 7.5 million people - that's as many as the inhabitants of Cologne, Hamburg, Munich and Berlin combined.

Seven of these 7.5 million people take the bus to Dresden Neustadt every morning, where you can see far over the Elbe. You walk along Stauffenbergallee, past stately villas. Lessons begin at eight o'clock in the writing academy: Here they learn to read and write properly. The literacy course is financed by the European Social Fund. The DPFA training center in Dresden is one of the sponsors, this is where the course takes place. Sophia Müller is also there today, like every day, from Monday to Friday.

Around half of all functionally illiterate people have a job

Not even one percent of all functionally illiterate people in Germany take part in such a course. It is not known why there are so few. Maybe because they don't know anything about the offers, maybe because they remember their school days with horror. Perhaps they have come to terms with a life without writing - around half of the functionally illiterate people have a job. So why go to school again?

Besides Sophia Müller, there is Melanie Schulze, who is now 25, and also “Mutti”, as she says. Their daughter was born when she was 17. She would like to become a geriatric nurse at some point. Only reading and writing has to get better beforehand.

There is Andy Schneider, who is silent a lot. Only sometimes does he complain about the foreigners who sell drugs at the main train station. He stutters heavily, sometimes struggles for a word for a few seconds. But he is the fastest in the course. If the others are still thinking, he already has the answer. He then helps the others.

There is Frank Hoffmann, who used to be a butcher and differentiated the sausages by the color of the labels. He also has a forklift license, he says. New employers are always happy about that when he introduces himself to them. But it is never hired. His last internship report stated that he had great weaknesses in reading and writing.

Their names have also changed - except for Frank Hofmann's.

And there is Cornelia Wehner, who leads this course on Thursdays and Fridays. A communication psychologist. She has been working with illiterate people for a number of years and has repeatedly taken part in further training seminars, she explains.

Small gaps become large

She brought worksheets with her on which she printed small photos. A man with a mixer. “What is he doing?” She asks. “He stirs the dough,” suggests Melanie Schulze. “How do you write stir?” Asks Cornelia Wehner. "Small." "Why?" "Because it's an action word."

Another picture: three children holding colorful boxes in their hands. “The children are packing presents,” says Frank Hoffmann. Melanie Schulze writes “kinter”.

Cornelia Wehner later says that for many in the course it is a mixture of reading and spelling weaknesses and concentration difficulties that lead to functional illiteracy. When the children then learn in large classes, in which the teachers have little time for individual problems and the parents cannot look after them, these gaps often widen.

Networks and excuses help

Sophia Müller says that even at school she never knew where the point was going, what was written in lower case and what was in upper case. She was at a special school. Her parents sat down with her again and again, but it never really caught on.

Sophia Müller had a tumor on her liver, which is why she is only allowed to work five hours a day and cannot catch up on the vocational training she missed. The employment office put her into action, but at some point she was asked what she was doing here if she couldn't read and write properly. So she started a literacy course at the Chamber of Commerce three years ago. She has been with the Writing Academy in Dresden for a year. She is now the group speaker.

Those affected are very good at forming a network that helps them, says Wehner. “They know who knows what where.” The typical excuses often come up to strangers: They don't have their glasses with them, they have a headache. "People have a life-affirming cleverness."

Nevertheless, all seven participants live on state benefits. For their participation, course members receive five euros a day and a monthly ticket. “A great incentive,” says Cornelia Wehner.

She throws a headscarf on, then sits down on a chair a little apart from the group and shouts: “I am German! I'm going over the rough sea to England, and I'll bring plums. ”Then she gets up, walks to the flipchart and writes the word“ plum ”there. Below: "plum". “The f,” she says, “the English didn't want that. If you take a closer look at some English words, you will notice how similar they are to the German. "

The money is scarce with the course participants

A little German, a little English, then comes a little math. If someone was 15 in 2000, how old was they in 1988? Nobody knows. “So many gaps,” says Cornelia Wehner.

Still, she says. “Most of them lead a completely normal life.” Except that it is not enough financially. Sometimes there is no sandwich for lunch at the end of the month.

Over the past few months they have designed a book in the course that they want to present on March 3rd: It is a collection of their favorite dishes that do not cost much. The recipes are written in very simple language. “For our own kind,” says Frank Hoffmann.