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Ride to Read event promotes reading and literacy in Chambersburg area

October 27, 2012|By ROXANN MILLER | roxann.miller@herald-mail.com
  • Tom Geiman of Chambersburg, Pa., helped coordinate Saturday's Ride to Read motorcycle ride in Franklin County to promote reading and literacy. Geiman learned to read at age 44 with the help of the Lincoln Intermediate Unit of the Franklin County Literacy Council.
By Roxann Miller

CHAMBERSBURG, Pa. — Tom Geiman of Chambersburg knows what it’s like to pick up a book and not be able to read it. He was 44 before he learned to read.

Geiman was one of about 14 percent of U.S. adults who can’t read.

But now, Geiman, 61, not only is reading at college-level, but he helped coordinate Saturday’s Ride to Read event in Chambersburg.

The 61.4-mile motorcycle trek around Franklin County, celebrating the Franklin-Fulton READS program, began at M&S Harley-Davidson in Chambersburg, continued to Mount Holly Springs, Pa., and ended at Chambersburg Mall in Scotland, Pa.

Saturday’s event was one of many activities in the two-month community reading celebration to promote reading and literacy through the area, said Sally Herritt, treasurer of the Franklin-Fulton County READS program.

Joan Peiffer, director of the Grove Family Library, said Geiman came up with the idea for the Ride to Read event. She said the motorcycle ride is a good way to spread the message of reading to a different audience.

“Reading is fun. What’s not to like?” Peiffer said.

“Reading is very important,” Peiffer said. “Tom will tell you what a struggle it was for him growing up. If you can’t read, you are missing out on so many things. It’s just so very important.”

Geiman said he had trouble learning how to read throughout his time in school.

“When I started fourth grade, I drew a picture in art class of a teacher teaching students to read. And the teacher came around and said, ‘What does this represent?’ And I told her, ‘I’m the teacher teaching these students how to read — that’s what I want to be when I grow up.’ And she rudely said, ‘You’ll never be a teacher, you can’t read,’” Geiman said. “That discouraged me.”

Geiman was told by school officials that he could continue through school until ninth grade and then quit or move into special education.

He chose special education.

Geiman said teachers continued moving him through the system without ever teaching him how to read.

“I just kept getting passed through school,” he said.

He graduated in 1969 and secured a job at the former Pet Ritz Co. in Chambersburg.

“They gave me an application. I took it home to my parents,” he said. “They filled it out for me, and I signed Thomas W. Geiman on the application.”

“I went back to Pet Ritz and told them I can’t read, but was willing to learn how to work,” he said.

He got the job and in 1994, was asked by someone at the front office if he wanted to go to the Lincoln Intermediate Unit of the Franklin County Literacy Council to learn how to read.

“I said ‘sure,’ and that’s where history was made,” Geiman said. “I’m told now I’m ready for college.”

He currently is sitting in on a few classes at Shippensburg (Pa.) University before making a commitment.

For now, he’s content to spread the word about literacy — much like his fourth-grade picture depicted of him teaching others about reading.

“I felt like an outsider when I was growing up,” he said. “To me, reading is a privilege that takes you to every place you want to go. In some countries, kids can’t go to school. We are lucky that we can have a chance to learn how to read.”

For more information, go to www.chambersburgreads.org.

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