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The Frank Laubach Story PDF Print E-mail

The Dr. Frank Laubach Story

Had you ever heard the name Laubach before you arrived at this website? Probably not. Yet this man, Frank Charles Laubach was a giant in his time, known to heads of state. What did he do that Laubach Literacy should bear his name?

Frank Charles Laubach was a man with, a big heart who made a difference.
Time magazine called him Mr. Literacy.....
Many others called him the "Apostle to the Illiterates".......
Lowell Thomas called him the 'greatest teacher of our time'......
On the anniversary of his 100th birthday in 1984, the U.S. Post Office honored him by putting his picture on a postage stamp in the Great American series.
But perhaps the most touching, and revealing title was given him by the tribes of the Belgian Congo. They called him Okombekombe, which means "mender of old baskets", because he taught old people to read and write.

Frank Laubach was a man who had a mission. He was a God-loving man. In fact, after graduating from Princeton, and getting a Master's, and then a Doctorate from Columbia University, he went on to Union Theological Seminary. In 1915 he was commissioned by the Union Congregational church to serve in the Philippines as a missionary, and to teach at the Union Theological Seminary in Manila.
He worked among Christian Filipinos establishing churches and teaching.....
A life-changing moment occurred when he was almost elected president of U. T. S: he lost by one vote - his own that he cast for the other candidate. God had other plans for his life.
The way opened up for him to go to the Southern part of the Philippines, to work with the Muslim Maranao tribe. It was there that he realized literacy was a necessary tool for improving their lives. Literacy would become his all-consuming mission in life.

At first he was not accepted bv the Maranao. They were suspicious of this white foreigner. So he just lived among them, listened to them, learned their language. They seemed such a sad people. He learned that they were sad because when loved ones moved to another village there was no way to for them to keep in touch: they had no written language. Dr. Frank saw his mission: to devise a written language!
Since he had done graduate work at Teachers' College in New York he had some idea about teaching language. He was able to sort out the 16 sounds of the Maranao language, using our Roman alphabet. He assigned one letter to each sound: 12 consonant sounds and 4 vowel sounds. And he devised a "Key Word" system to help students identity and remember the sounds of the letters, what he later called "Visual Puns". He associated the initial sound of an object's name with the letter-sound to be learned. For example, in English Isl is pictured as a wiggly snake. Iml is pictured as a man's shoulders. The idea is really as old as the Egyptians. Their hieroglyphics were pictures which represented objects, and then later came to represent syllables.
The results were amazing! People learned to read and write in two weeks or less! Dr. Laubach soon had a corps of paid teachers teaching others in their own and other village.

But, when the depression led to funding cuts, Dr. Laubach told the chieftain he couldn't carry on with the program. (#2, p.49) The chieftain, who had been taught to read, even though he was an old man, knew that learning to read had, and would help his people to prosper. He declared" If I can learn, anyone can learn. Let each one who learned to read, teach some else or die.!" From that chief's decision the "Each One Teach One" concept was born, and became the motto and emblem of his literacy movement.

Word of Dr. Laubach's success began to spread. He had written letter after letter to heads of state: Presidents, prime ministers, kings, queens...offering to advise them on how to teach their illiterates. Requests came in from all over the world. He spent 40 years as a literacy consultant to governments. church missions. and private organizations. He worked with native speaking teams in over 100 countries in more than 300 languages and dialects. India alone has 12 major languages. He is credited with the basic education of millions of adults whom he called the "Silent Billion".

In 1946 Dr. Laubach's son'. Bob joined his father's work, traveling with him to some 65 countries. In every country Bob Laubach saw the need for writers and printers of literature for newly literate peoples. He says,”The printer's ink got under my fingernails as a teenager in the Philippines." He had helped with printing reading materials there. This eventually led him to create a new profession which he called 'literacy journalism'. He is co-author of "Laubach Way to Reading" and the skill books we use in our tutoring, and in 1959 he started the "News for You” newspaper for new readers.

In the 1970's. because so many tutors were faced with non-English speaking learners, it was necessary to write materials for teaching English as a second language. The Laubach way to English was born, with conversational skills based on the vocabulary and sentence structures of the original Laubach Way to Reading series. You will be learning how to use the Laubach Way to English in your teaching.

During his 40 years as a literacy crusader, Dr. Frank also found time to write some 50 books and scores of articles, mostly educational and religious, but including some sociological and historical subjects.

I hope that knowing about this great pioneer of literacy will inspire you. The seeds of English that you plant in your students may not bear fruit immediately.. but with tender, loving care, they will flourish and bear fruit in due season. You can be a Johnny Appleseed and plant the seeds. "Each one of you can teach one".A note of explanation about that. It doesn't mean that you will necessarily be limited to teaching just one student at a time. More and more the trend is toward teaching small groups, -just as Dr. Laubach did,- as you can see in the display of pictures about him. Thank you for volunteering to join the ranks of concerned citizens.



The Frank Laubach Story


The Frank Laubach Story

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