Interview with Betty Harp: Literacy Action Founder

Betty Harp, one of Literacy Action’s dedicated founders, was a pioneer in the fight against adult illiteracy. Traveling throughout Arkansas in the 1970s, Harp and her colleague, Margaret Booth trained volunteers to teach adults with basic literacy skills how to read. Their goal was simple, “to get trainers in as many places as possible.” Through their efforts, groups of volunteers were organized and ready to teach adults to read.

As a result of these workshops, Harp believes volunteers gained enough traction in their communities to eventually grow into the literacy councils that still exist today.

Just as our volunteers are required to attend training, Harp recalls her own tutor training experience. She remembers being gone overnight, leaving her three young children at home.

“They knew I had gone to learn how to teach someone how to read. And these were little kids,” she explained. “They’d say, ‘Mom, did you teach anyone how to read yet?’ And I’d feel about this big,” Harp says while motioning with her hands, a smile spreading over her face.

Thousands of hours later, Harp could say with confidence that she has taught many adults how to read. Instead, she reminds us that there is always more to give to help another in need. “I always felt that I’ve gained more than I ever gave,” she says when remarking on her work with Literacy Action.

Harp’s words easily resonate with all of us who have supported Literacy Action in its efforts to increase adult literacy; and, they also inspire us to keep giving so that we can continue the important work she began many years ago.

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