Woman who learned to read at 50 speaks to Knox Middle students

Published 12:00 am Thursday, March 8, 2012

A special speaker recently addressed students at Knox Middle School about her difficulties growing up and not being able to read.
At age 50, Sharon Turcot decided she was going to change all of that.
Turcot grew up in Aiken, S.C., where her father was a judge. She was good at creative assignments but when it required reading or writing, her papers were returned with large F’s and many red marks all over the page.
Never a discipline problem, Turcot kept to herself, and preferred sitting in the back of the classroom so as not to be noticed.
Turcot was socially promoted because the teachers and administrators did not know what to do with her. Unfortunately, she graduated with a diploma but did not know how to read.
Following high school, Turcot married, had children, then divorced and remarried. She hid the fact that she could not read from everyone around her.
She had an understanding with her second husband that when they went out for a meal he would tell her about the menu in such a way that none of her friends would know she could not read it herself.
Turcot became very proficient at covering up the fact that she could not read. It led to an exhausting existence and a daily secret she felt she must conceal.
She was a marvelous cook, an extraordinary painter, a gracious hostess and a beautiful decorator, but her grocery lists consisted of pictures of the foods she prepared.
Turcot grew up with a large garden with fresh fruits and vegetables and so she prepared everything from scratch. She was an immaculate house keeper and she told her mother she was not ashamed of anything her friends might see if she were to die suddenly, except for her grocery list.
She made her mother promise if that were to happen that she would come to her house and tear up her grocery list so no one would ever know her secret. Her mother promised.
Life changed for Turcot when she turned 50. Her husband wanted to buy her diamonds or furs for her special birthday, but she told him she did not want either of those.
Turcot had a simple request, she wanted to learn to read.
Her husband responded positively and said he would find a way for her to do just that.
Turcot told the students about meeting Mary Kay Forbes, director of the learning disability association summer program.
Forbes gave her hope that she really could learn to read.
Turcot went to Bowman Gray School of Medicine, was tested, diagnosed, and began tutoring three time per week under the supportive tutelage of Dr. Rebecca Felton.
Before going to Bowman Gray, she made a promise to come meet the children in the summer program who were also struggling with academic subjects in school. It was an instant match for Turcot and she spent every day helping at the summer program where the children loved her and looked forward to spending time with her in their classes.
She reminded the students at Knox that they all had gifts and talents, but they must be willing to ask for help when they needed it. Many famous people, such as Whoopi Goldberg, Nelson Rockefeller, Albert Einstein, Bruce Jenner and others, struggled with reading, math or written language, but they persevered and went on to great heights.
Turcot’s message to Knox students was “Never, ever give up!”
Students and faculty members could be heard saying:
“She needs to come back to see us.” “We didn’t have enough time with her.”
Melinda Hedrick, the art teacher at Knox Middle, said Turcot was an “amazing speaker” because she was “honest, open and patient with students.”
“She shares her story with great enthusiasm and encourages students to make changes in their lives,” she said. “She is empowering in her presentation. I enjoyed that not only did she reach her dreams of reading, but in art as well.”
Turcot lives with her husband, Bud, in Greensboro and is eager to share her story with students, teachers, administrators and others who are interested in helping children and adults learn to read.
The entire Knox Middle School family appreciated her taking the time to share her talents and unique story with them.