Learning to Read

Learning to Read
By: Holly Brantley
FREDERICKTOWN, Mo. -- Nick Cook doesn't need sound to communicate. His eyes take in the world around him. Nick was born deaf. During a family trip to the lake, his mother signs everything Nick needs to know.
Recently Nick graduated from Fredericktown High School. Nick played football and excelled in school, thanks to his own passion for hard work, and help from his interpreter and teachers. Though, Nick admits on some levels he might have gotten too much help.
"I wish, I could read and write," Nick signed to his mom.
Amazingly, Nick's mom, Becki Pinkley, says he was able to graduate 16th in his class, but never learned to read. They never suspected his ability wasn't even up to third grade level. That is until three weeks ago.
Low standardized test scores were about to keep Nick out of Gallaudet University for the deaf in Washington, D.C. where Nick planned to play football.
"Only thing we can figure is because everyone signs to him we all thought he was getting it," said Pinkley. 
Nick says being unable to read simply became normal and he was able to get by.
"There could have been a little embarrassment," said Pinkley.
With three weeks to get Nick into school, Pinkley knew she had to turn this into a positive. With the help of staff and coaches at Gallaudet University, she learned about a reading intensive program for foreign students called E.L.I.
Nick could still attend the University, learn to read, and help nurture his passion for football as a team manager. With just days to pull it all together, Pinkley also had to find the money to send Nick to school.
Since the E.L.I. program isn't a college course, financial aid didn't cover it. She needed to come up with thousands of dollars in a very short time.
"I emailed all my friends and family in my address book," said Pinkley. "I told them I knew it was crazy and desperate, but I was all of those things. So, I asked 900 people to give me $20 to help Nick learn to read.
Pinkley set up a website and she says the response has been amazing.
"With any extra money we want to help other deaf kids like Nick," said Pinkley.
"I'll wait a year, I'm going to learn to read, and I'm going to play football," Nick signed to his mom.
Pinkley has a message for other parents. "Don't count on everyone else telling you, 'Oh, they're deaf, they don't read well,'" she said. "Have them sit down and read to you, do it early."
Nick sees this next year as a blessing in disguise. With a positive attitude he's determined to make the most of his first year away from Missouri. He wants to learn to read and return to the football field bigger, faster, and smarter than ever.
"Everybody's gonna be new and signing because everybody's going to be deaf," signed Nick. "That's going to be cool."
"I knew if it was meant to be it was gonna work and it's worked," said Pinkley.
Nick leaves for school Sunday morning.
If you'd like to help Nick learn to read check out their website. Nick has a twin brother, Nathan.
Nathan will play football for the College of the Ozarks in Branson this fall.