Elkhart resident learns to read, gets first library card at age 57

Sandy Caldwell wanted to read the Bible to children at her church and she wanted to stop depending on her family members to do things for her.


The problem for the 57-year-old Elkhart resident was that she couldn’t read, she had never learned how.

Caldwell says that her parents meant well when they pulled her out of kindergarten to home school her, but they couldn’t offer her the help she needed.

“They said I was too slow, they didn’t have a program for me to be in,” she said. “Their protection hurt me now more than it would have (to go to school).”

Deep down, she said she always wanted to learn and she knew she could, but she just didn’t know where to start.

She contacted Horizon Education Alliance where she eventually landed with volunteer tutor Beth Suderman, who started bringing Caldwell to the Osolo Branch for weekly lessons.

Starting from the beginning with phonetics and the alphabet, Suderman has Caldwell reading at a beginner level.

“Little by little, we piece it together,” said Suderman.

Last November Caldwell finally signed up for her first library card.

“I had made it, it took me long enough but I had made it,” she said.

The library has been a safe place for her to study and work, she said. The staff have been friendly and encouraged her when she felt stuck. She said she would practice reading to them and some of them would tear up.

“It’s been real good, they cheer me on,” Caldwell said. “Some of them cry.”

Caldwell said that since she only gets out of the house for church and her weekly lessons, she uses her library card to check out books and movies that help her in her reading lessons.

Earlier this year, Caldwell finally read to a Sunday school class at her church, Riverview General Baptist Church, sharing the story of Jesus calming the storm.

Now, the two are working on the Christmas story, Luke 2: 1-20, for the upcoming holiday season.

Caldwell says she still struggles with some of the words but knows that it will come. She also wants people to know that it’s never too late to start learning.

“I don’t care if you’re 80, you can still learn,” she said.