Brenda Linson never goes anywhere without an empty spectacles case. It is as vital to her as her purse. Yet she doesn’t wear glasses. The reason she can’t do withoutit is because she can’t read and she can’t write. If ever she gets into any situation where she might be expected to do either of these things, she fishes around in her bag for the specs case, findsit’s empty, and asks the person concerned to do the reading for her. Brenda is now in her late thirties. She’s capable and articulate and until a few months ago hardly anybody knew she was illiterate.Her husband didn’t know and her children didn’t know. The children still don’t.
She had any number of tactics for concealing her difficulty – for example, never lingering near a phone at work, incase she had to answer it and might be required to write something down. But, in fact, it is easier for illiterates to conceal the truth than the rest of us might imagine. Literacy is so much taken forgranted that people simply don’t spot the giveaway signs.
It has never occurred to the children that their mother cannot read. She doesn’t read them stories, but then their father doesn’t either, sothey find nothing surprising in the fact. Similarly, they just accept that Dad is the one who writes the sick notes and reads the school reports. Now that the elder boy Tom is quite a proficientreader, Brenda can skillfully get him to read any notes brought home from school simply by asking, “What’s that all about, then?”
Brenda’s husband never guessed the truth in ten years of marriage. Forone thing, he insists on handling all domestic correspondence and bills himself. An importer of Persian carpets, he travels a great deal and so is not around so much to spot the truth. While he's away,Brenda copes with any situations by explaining that she can’t do anything until she’s discussed it with her husband.
Brenda was very successful in her job until recently. For the last five years...