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Literacy Volunteers Provide Free Literacy and English Instruction


Part 1 of 3

Have you ever heard the saying, “Nothing in life is free?” Well, it turns out that Literacy Volunteers may just be the exception to this rule! I recently sat down with Meghen Fitzgibbons, ESOL Program Manager at Literacy Volunteers of Greater New Haven to hear firsthand about Literacy Volunteers and the wonderful work they do. In this first in a series of three blogs, Meghen talks about the history of Literacy Volunteers and the wonderful work they do around the country.

AccentAccurate: What is Literacy Volunteers all about? Who does Literacy Volunteers serve?

Meghen Fitzgibbons: ProLiteracy and Literacy Volunteers of America are the two national umbrella organizations that aim to oversee Literacy Volunteer activities. Their goal is to help two groups of people. The first group of people are native speakers of English who want to improve their reading skills. The second group are individuals whose first or dominant language is not English, and who want to improve their English language skills.

ProLiteracy and Literacy Volunteers of America assist in the formation of local chapters and affiliates around the country. These chapters and affiliates develop programs to address the needs in their local communities. Literacy Volunteers affiliates work hand in hand with state departments of education and adult education programs. They provide volunteers to assist teachers in adult education programs, or by offering classes that are actually taught by volunteers in order to meet the growing demand for literacy and English ESOL programs.


AA: What is the history of Literacy Volunteers?

MF: Literacy Volunteers was founded in 1974. For various reasons, some adults have not acquired functional reading skills. Literacy Volunteers affiliates offer programming that aims to help these individuals acquire the reading skills needed to be active and engaged members of society.

AA: What types of programs or classes does Literacy Volunteers offer?

MF: Literacy Volunteers offers two kinds of classes:

1. Basic Literacy Classes – Classes for native speakers of English who want to improve their reading skills. Classes are offered at various levels, from basic literacy to advanced readers.

2. English for Speakers of Other Languages (ESOL) – These classes are geared towards students whose first or dominant language is not English. Classes are available at a variety of levels, from beginner to advanced.

AA: What do students learn in class?

MF: In Basic Literacy classes, there is typically a set curriculum that incorporates research-based reading strategies for adult literacy learners.

In ESOL classes curriculum materials are typically available, but other resources may be incorporated as well. The goal is to cover relevant themes that people need to become familiar with when learning a new language. For example, going to the grocery store, communicating with your doctor, communicating with your child’s teacher, or just navigating the community successfully. Within these contexts, vocabulary and grammar are addressed. Some classes follow a structured curriculum, while other classes focus more on lessons that are custom-designed to meet the needs and goals of the students in that class.

AA: How long are students typically enrolled in Literacy Volunteers programs?

MF: Some students attend Literacy Volunteer classes for years, while others may come just for one session (approximately three months). We encourage consistent attendance, but we understand that circumstances beyond a student’s control may affect attendance.

AA: Does Literacy Volunteers offer help with accent and pronunciation?

MF: Materials and resources to work on accent and pronunciation are available, but typically there is so much material to cover that there isn’t always enough time to work on these areas.

Additionally, most tutors don’t have the background and the training to work on these areas. Nevertheless, students at more advanced levels often identify accent and pronunciation as areas they need help with.

Stay tuned for the our upcoming post on Literacy Volunteers, in which Meghen Fitzgibbons, ESOL Program Manager talks about the students and programs at the New Haven affiliate and all that makes it unique.

If you’re looking for help with accent and pronunciation, AccentAccurate offers a variety of coaching programs to help with accent awareness and modification. Please visit us at to see which of our programs is best suited for you!

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