Years ago as an elementary teacher, I attended a reading conference in Toronto, Ontario. I enjoyed the privilege of hearing John Corcoran when he was the keynote speaker. At the conference, I bought his book, The Teacher Who Couldn't Read and today treasure my autographed copy. It has graced my bookshelf for quite awhile, but when the idea for my novel Misty Hollow came about, I ran to my shelf, grabbed the book, and gave a victory cheer. It was the perfect reference in creating my illiterate Appalachian hero, Joel Greenfield.
Corcoran describes an unbelievable story about how he graduated high school and college and actually taught history for seventeen years. At around fourth grade, he began to fall behind and compensated for his handicap by acting out. In high school, he excelled in athletics and was admired by faculty and friends. So how did he get by as a functional illiterate?
He devised clever ways of deception including cheating and lying. With his charismatic personality, he charmed others into reading books and documents to him. Once in college, he actually passed his test out the window to another student who took the exam for him. A favorite deception was claiming he forgot his glasses at home.
While teaching high school, he utilized discussions and debates where texts were never used. He even asked a student to read the morning bulletin to the class, though at the bottom it read "Please don't let a student read this bulletin."
He eventually married and had a daughter. He would "read" her bedtime stories by looking at the pictures and making up his own version.
Corcoran doesn't place blame on the educational system but on his circumstances. Since he went to school in the 50's, educators have discovered more ways to help students with reading disorders. In his 30's, Corcoran finally finds the courage to sign up for an adult literacy class and learns to read. He now supports literacy through the John Corcoran Foundation.
In writing Joel's character, I borrowed some of Corcoran's methods of compensation. Joel uses the glasses excuse, asks others to read for him, and employs deception such as taking his Bible to church and pretending he's following along. Most valuable in writing his character were Corcoran's descriptions of his emotional journey—the shame, frustration, and fear of being exposed.
For all readers with a heart for literacy, Corcoran's book is a must read. In any case, it's a fascinating tale. Thanks, Mr. Corcoran, for sharing your story with American. Like my fictional character, Joel Greenfield, many have profited by the telling of your journey.
Molly Cambridge arrives in the tiny Appalachian town of
bringing literacy to the area's uneducated women, only to be met by opposition
at every turn by the headstrong, unbending mayor. When she asks for use of Town
Hall, he refuses her offer to teach without pay and turns her down flat saying
he only allows village business conducted there. Misty Hollow
Joel Greenfield, son is a poor dirt farmer, is illiterate. When he admits to his passion to turn the family farm into a dairy business, the obstacles are insurmountable. He couldn't even read the manual on how to use farming machinery, much less generate the necessary capital. His father’s objections further frustrate his desires.
When Joel offers Molly use of the old barn on the
discover an irresistible attraction for each other. But the mayor has plans of
his own to break them up, send Molly back to Greenfield Nashville,
and seize the
farm for himself. Can Molly and Joel overcome the hurdles to fulfilling their
dreams and find their way to each other? Only God has the answers. Greenfield
When two people are cultures apart, only God can bridge the gap.
June Foster's bio
An award-winning author, June Foster is a retired teacher with a BA in education and MA in counseling. June's book Give Us This Day was a finalist in EPIC's eBook awards and a finalist in the National Readers Choice Awards for best first book. Ryan's Father was one of three finalists in the published contemporary fiction category of the Oregon Christian Writers Cascade Writing Contest and Awards. Deliver Us was a finalist in COTT's Laurel Awards. June has written four novels for Desert Breeze Publishing. The Bellewood Series, Give Us This Day, As We Forgive, and Deliver Us, and Hometown Fourth of July. Ryan's Father is published by WhiteFire Publishing. Red and the Wolf, a modern day retelling of Little Red Riding Hood, is available from Amazon.com. The Almond Tree series, For All Eternity, Echoes From the Past, What God Knew, and Almond Street Mission are available at Amazon.com. June enjoys writing stories about characters who overcome the circumstances in their lives by the power of God and His Word. Recently June has seen publication of Christmas at Raccoon Creek, Lavender Fields Inn, Misty Hollow, and Restoration of the Heart. Visit June at junefoster.com.