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Man Kept His Illiteracy A Secret For 47 Years, And Then He Made A Life-Changing Decision

The Onion / ABC News

Norman Brown, from Bakersfield, California, struggled to read for 47 years, and kept it a secret from everybody. But one day he decided that he didn't want illiteracy to define the rest of his life.

His story of growing up in a country that makes it hard for anyone to function in society without having reading skills, keeping it a secret, and his life-changing decision to learn at the age of 47, is incredible and heartwarming.

According to a study by the U.S. Department of Education, approximately 32 million adults in the U.S. are unable to read. A study from Central Connecticut State found that Norman's hometown ranked as the least literate city in the United States.

Those who struggle living with illiteracy don't have the same opportunities when it comes to economic security, access to health care, and being able to actively participate in everyday life.

According to the U.S. Department of Justice, "The link between academic failure and delinquency, violence, and crime is welded to reading failure."

In Norman's case, he fell behind in a school system that only set him aside, which made it extremely difficult for him to catch up.

In elementary school, Norman fell behind his classmates, but was remarkably still able to make his way though the education system.

"I don't know how I even got to the 10th grade and nobody caught it," he confessed to ABC News. "This is insane that I went so far in school."�

"If the kids found out you couldn't read anywhere you go they are going to pick on you," he added.

In adulthood, Norman found it difficult to apply for jobs that required a written application, and even being around friends who wanted to partake in tasks that required some kind of reading or writing.

He told reporters that once he went to a dinner party and they wanted to play Scrabble, and he freaked out and had to excuse himself, feeling "totally embarrassed."

He eventually found help at the Kern Literacy Council, where he received tutoring to develop his reading and writing skills.

"When I come through these doors I feel so much power in here, so much knowledge, and if I could learn to read it I can do anything I want in my life," he said, describing every time he enters a library.

Norman credits the help of these weekly classes for his boost in confidence, which has led him to launch his own auto body shop to repair classic cars.

"Four years of tutoring and now the sky is the limit!"� he exclaimed. "Step aside because I'm coming through."�

"I didn't learn to read until I was 47 years old," Norman confessed, and now he's encouraging men and women across the country to seek out help, because "life will be a lot better."

Norman's favorite book is Frog and Toad by Arnold Lobel.

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Moojan has been a writer at Shared for a year. When she's not on the lookout for viral content, she's looking at cute animal photos. Reach her at moojan@shared.com.