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She was 'a late reader.' Now this student is a literacy ambassador

Avila Rudd is
"I remember, when I started learning how to read, how the world took shape around me," Avila Rudd said. Rudd, a rising sophomore at Falmouth High School, has been named a World Literacy Foundation youth ambassador.

"Because I learned later than most people, it made me appreciate reading so much more," says Avila Rudd, a World Literacy Foundation ambassador.

Avila Rudd didn't grasp how to read until she was 10.

But now, as a rising sophomore at Falmouth High School, Rudd has been named a World Literacy Foundation youth ambassador. She will serve as a local advocate to increase awareness about the importance of reading and writing.

The nonprofit World Literacy Foundation works to ensure that every child, regardless of geographic location, has the opportunity to acquire literacy skills.

"I remember, when I started learning how to read, how the world took shape around me," Rudd said. "So, very quickly, I devoured books."

Rudd joins a global group of people aged 15 to 25 working to improve literacy outcomes for disadvantaged children.

Avila Rudd is a rising sophomore at Falmouth High School.
Avila Rudd
Avila Rudd is a rising sophomore at Falmouth High School.

Patrick Flanary What is the role of a World Literacy Foundation youth ambassador?

 Avila Rudd The World Literacy Foundation believes that literacy is a fundamental human right, and that everyone is entitled to that. And so it's the job of the ambassadors, as well as everyone in the organization, to spread awareness about this issue and work toward eradicating illiteracy.

PF Where do we put the blame for illiteracy around the world?

AR I wouldn't so much put blame. I think it's very much that people are ignorant, not aware of the issue. And I think that to combat an issue you have to first understand it. So I think that it is really important to bring education to people. And I think once people know about it and the statistics they will be able to get involved because literacy rates have been increasing. That's a good thing. But we're not fully there.

PF Have you witnessed illiteracy, even in your own school or town here on the Cape?

AR I have a bit. Most U.S. adults read below 6th-grade level. When I found out that statistic, I was really shocked. And I was like, OK, I have to get involved.

PF Tell me a bit about your responsibilities. You'll be a local advocate, but doing what exactly?

AR I'm working on planning a book drive. Book drives are a really wonderful way to collect books which then go to underprivileged communities. I also am striving to bring awareness to people in the community. I'm also going to be fundraising for the organization.

PF I'd love to know what the last book you read was, or if you've got any summer reading plans.

AR One book that I read recently that I absolutely love is Factfulness by Hans Rosling. It's this really wonderful book that encompasses 10 reasons why we're wrong about the world and that things are better than we think. And it basically focuses on having a fact-based worldview: focusing our energy and our thoughts on realistic fears, and to not worrying about things when the statistics don't actually support things are as bad as because they are. It's a really wonderful book. Even if you're not really into nonfiction, it has tons of infographics and is very interesting.

PF Do you find that people are intimidated when they're trying to read? Or does illiteracy fall more on a lack of education globally?

AR I think both. I think, because reading is taught in school, that maybe people feel pressured to learn how to read very quickly, and it can be stressful and cause people not to focus on finding a love of reading.

PF Did you ever struggle to read as a child, and who helped you along?

AR I did. I was homeschooled, and my mom read to me a ton as a kid. We always to the library, but my parents never pushed me to learn how to read. And so I was a late reader.

I don't think I was really like a competent reader until maybe age 10. So I definitely fell behind the curve. I couldn't actually read myself for a long time. And I remember when I started learning how to read how the world took shape around me. I was old enough that I remember vividly what an impact it made. So very quickly, once I started learning how to read, I just devoured books and fell in love with reading so fast. Because I learned later than most people, I understand what it's like to not know how to read.

PF Once you began to grasp the concept, I guess it felt like nothing was stopping you, right?

AR Exactly. I remember as soon as I really started reading that I read everything. I very quickly became advanced in reading. So I think this has really been an interesting experience for me. That has definitely motivated me in my literacy advocacy and my deep personal love of reading.

Patrick Flanary is a dad, journalist, and host of Morning Edition.