How to Volunteer with the Illiterate

How to Find a Literacy Volunteer Outlet in Your Area

The most common way to volunteer in literacy is to become a tutor, working one-on-one with a student or a group of students a couple of hours a week to help them learn to read and write. Literacy tutors typically work in programs sponsored by community-based organizations, libraries, prisons and churches.

The quickest way to find an outlet in your area is go to an online literacy directory, enter your zip code and search for a program in your area that works best for you [source: America's Literacy Directory].

ProLiteracy, now the largest volunteer-based literacy group in the United States, also has an online directory that allows you to search by zip code [source: ProLiteracy]. If you're interested in working overseas, ProLiteracy partners with a number of nongovernmental organizations (NGOs) that run literacy programs in Africa, Eastern Europe, Asia, Latin America and the Middle East.

There's a long list of other organizations that offer literacy training and volunteer opportunities -- including the National Institute for Literacy, the National Jewish Coalition for Literacy, BookPALS (Performing Artists for Literacy in Schools), the National Center for Family Literacy, the International Reading Association and the Council for the Advancement of Adult Literacy.

Some volunteers get started early. SCALE (Student Coalition for Action in Literacy Education) is an organization based at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill that supports college-campus-based literacy programs across the country. In these programs, college students provide literacy tutoring, GED preparation, advocacy and activism in their communities.

Read on to find out what kinds of things you can do as a literacy volunteer.