Qualifications and Training
Tutors do need to be able to read, write, and speak English fluently and have a personal enthusiasm for literacy. They need to be able to commit to the tutor training required and to serving as a tutor for at least one full year, meeting for a minimum of one hour per week. All tutors must be able to keep records of their tutoring sessions, file brief periodic reports electronically or by email, and maintain confidentiality.
Tutor training workshops are offered approximately four times a year. The initial training workshop is a two-hour session designed to give the tutors a foundation in adult education and reading instruction. The primary book used by the tutors is Teaching Adults: A Literacy Resource Book developed by ProLiteracy and published by New Readers Press. TCL also offers additional workshops specifically focused on instruction for English language learners and adults with developmental disabilities.
Once a person has completed the initial training, he or she will be matched with a learner as soon as possible. The learner and tutor will then set up their own meeting place and time for their sessions, according to their personal schedules and needs. Tutors are encouraged to attend quarterly support sessions held just for tutors. The Literacy Volunteers Program Director is also available to answer questions and to help problem-solve if a tutor is having difficulty with his or her sessions. TCL has a wide assortment of literacy materials available at the office for the tutors to use. Tutors are also free to access library materials and online resources for their sessions.
A survey by the US Education Department’s National Assessment of Adult Literacy was conducted in 2003. Literacy achievement was divided into four levels: Below Basic, Basic, Intermediate, and Proficient. The basic literacy skills tested included:
- Searching a short, simple text to find out what a patient is allowed to drink before a medical test
- Signing a form
- Adding the amounts on a bank deposit slip
The survey found that:
- 32 million adults in the USA, about one in seven, lack basic literacy skills.
- From 1992 to 2003, the US added about 23 million adults to its population of which 3.6 million joined the ranks of low literate adults, indicating that the literacy gap is widening.
- In Maine, approximately 1 in 5 adults function at the lowest levels of literacy. That means 20% are unable to independently follow basic written instructions and read notices and memos.
Source: National Center for Education Statistics, US Department of Education
Additionally, 9 out of 10 young children in Maine whose parents lack high school degrees live in low-income families. (Maine Children’s Growth Council: figures extrapolated from 2010 U.S. Census data for Maine) Adults who do not have basic literacy skills are less able to provide for their families, hold jobs that include health care benefits, and access higher education opportunities.
While these figures can be overwhelming, here at TCL we give you the chance to make a difference. By becoming a tutor and working one-on-one with a literacy learner, you may not be able to single-handedly turn these statistics around. However, you will be able to help improve one person’s life through literacy, and in doing so, you will be helping countless others.
Frequently Asked Questions
Q: Can I state a preference for the kind of tutoring I will do? (ELL, intermediate level instruction, etc.)
A: Yes. There is a basic tutor training session and then additional trainings to prepare people for the types of tutoring they would like to do.
Q: Do I have to pay for any of the materials I will use?
A: No. Tri-County Literacy pays for the books, workbooks, and other supplies you will use for your sessions. You may also access materials from your local library or online. Having said that, we encourage donations to assist with the cost of the text that is provided for the training. Funding for materials is generally provided through grants and donations from both individuals and businesses.
Q: What happens if my learner doesn’t show up for sessions?
A: Depending on your learner, it may be a good idea to call him or her just prior to the day of your session as a reminder. Make sure your learner has a way to contact you if he/she needs to cancel. If this is a persistent issue, you should discuss it with the Literacy Volunteers Program Coordinator.
Q: Can I go to the learner’s house for the sessions?
A: The sessions should occur in a library or other public building. If your learner has other needs as to the meeting place, please check with the Literacy Volunteers Program Coordinator.
Q: Will my learner bring children to the session?
A: We ask the learner and the tutor to meet without any additional people.
Q: What happens if my learner or I lose TCL materials?
A: We ask tutors to sign-out the materials they use from TCL. We hope you will create a system between you and your learner for taking good care of those materials. The most important thing is for your learner to keep learning; new materials can be checked out, if necessary.
Q: If I buy materials, can I receive reimbursement?
A: We ask that you try to use the supplies on hand at TCL, and library and online resources whenever possible. If you think you need special supplies for which you would like reimbursement, please check with the Literacy Volunteers Program Coordinator before making the purchase.
Q: What if my learner and I do not work well together?
A: Every now and then a match simply is not compatible. However, as literacy tutoring is not an easy task, we ask that you stay with your learner for at least several months to see if a better relationship can develop before asking for a change. That same expectation applies to the learner. Again, this should be discussed with the Literacy Volunteers Program Coordinator.