Ruth Johnson Colvin saw a problem – pervasive adult illiteracy – and used formidable organizing skills and tenacity to help solve it through the creation of Literacy Volunteers of America, Inc.
Colvin learned the scope of illiteracy in l962 when she discovered that more than 11,000 people in the upstate New York county where she lived could not read. Her life was transformed as she undertook the necessary training needed to help correct the situation.
She determined that traditional classroom methods would not work and instead focused on the development of community networks in which a climate was created that empowered adult learners in new ways. The organization developed tutor training programs, special materials, community support components and a model that involves people from all walks of life in a community. Former dropouts became tutors, as did bank presidents, educators and many others. In 2002, Literacy Volunteers of America, Inc. merged with Laubach Literacy International to form ProLiteracy Worldwide. Of her sometimes daunting work, Colvin has said, “If you believe in your idea, you go from there. If you do it with love, it will work out.”
During her more than over four decades of literacy work, Colvin has published nine books, and visited or worked in more than sixty countries. In 2006, she was awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom from President George W. Bush.
Colvin traveled internationally for many years to share her knowledge‚ exemplifying the power of one individual to change the world for the better.