We are not an English-as-a-Second-Language program. We are not
a babysitting service. We are not a school district and cannot
give out high school credit. We do however work with adults
who speak English as another language but still struggle with
reading, writing, or math. We do work with adults with a range
of disabilities. And, we do help adults work on their high
school diplomas in conjunction with one of the adult high
schools in Salt Lake or Davis County.
Our adult learners are often the most difficult to reach and
teach. They often have numerous other problems besides
illiteracy. These adults spent their early years struggling
with print. They have spent their later years avoiding print.
By the time they finally reach out for help to remediate their
patterns of behavior, these adults are quite skeptical and
frightened. They are uncertain and doubtful about their
abilities to learn. Formal testing, misconstrued words, and
misperceived body language add to their misgivings about
pursuing help. Consequently, these adults often do not want
anyone to know about them. They hide in public, hoping no one
will catch on to their ongoing cover-ups.
These adults typically report the following:
1) Never learned phonics—They state that they can’t read
because they can’t figure out how to sound out words.
2) “Stupid” or “You’ll never learn nothin’”—They report that a
teacher or family member said these things (or worse) to them.
These adult learners haven’t forgotten. Unfortunately, they
have come to believe that they can’t learn.
3) Difficulty focusing—They are often distracted by others
around them and the size of tasks.
4) Forget easily—Short-term memory problems abound in these
adults. Showing them something once typically does not result
5) Scared—They are frightened that people will find out their
secret. Initially our enrollees don’t want people to know
where they are spending their time.
6) “I’m the only one”—They are certain that no one else has
Since these six statements and other similar statements are
told to us repeatedly by the adults we serve, these statements
are crucial in helping us design the structure and delivery of
our services for English-speaking adults who have low-literacy
The adults we teach are scared
They think there is no one else like them. They think they
Our job? Make them feel at ease from the first phone call.
Adults entering our program
have hidden their secrets for many years. Their meeting with
our learning specialist may be the first time they have asked
for help from a stranger. It may be a frightening experience
for these adults. Because we need the commitment from the
adult learners, not their friends and family members, we
require that the adult learners make the first appointments
themselves. When the learners call, our caring, sensitive
learning specialist puts the adults at ease over the telephone
as she explains the program requirements.
screening process begins with a phone call from the learner to
an appointment with our learning specialist, then leads to
Screening: Complete 3
screening meetings (about six hours) with the learning
specialist. To the first meeting: Bring something the learner
can read and understand easily (e.g., if he can only read his
name then bring an envelope with his name and address on it;
if he can read some words then bring a children’s book
containing those words). And bring something the learner would
like to read but it is currently too hard (learner’s choice
but it must be something the learner cares about reading).
Subsequent meetings focus on completing informal inventories
and the Test of Adult Basic Education (TABE) to develop
instructional plans, set initial goals, and teach, bring a
book that the learner is reading for twenty minutes daily to
show progress and discuss concerns.
Attendance: After the completion of the screening
process, attend a minimum of 6 hours of instruction weekly
(more opportunities are available, depending upon the
learner’s availability). When the learner has attended a
minimum of 60 hours and shows evidence of ongoing practice,
then the learner becomes eligible for a one-on-one tutor.
Tutoring will be ninety-minutes twice a week at a public
library, in addition to attending at least one course or
group. (Note: While matching learners with one-on-one tutors
is a priority, these matches are greatly influenced by the
availability of our trained community volunteers.)
Progress: Practice reading & writing for at least 20
minutes daily (no matter how tired or busy they are).
Regularly complete home practice assignments. Learners must
show progress and goal accomplishment. (This aspect of the
program is essential to maintaining personal enthusiasm and
keeping a good tutor. Progress is equal to paying the tutor
for her time spent.) Bottom line: Learners must willingly do
Fees: Pay $30-$100 annual fee. No one may use the fee
as an excuse not to get help from us. (Note: We do not receive
state funding. Screening, testing, materials, and instruction
costs us over $800 per person annually. See
Partners & Donors and
How You Can Help for more
information about donors and making donations.)
Exiting: Adult learners may exit or (re)enter our
program at any point. Adult learners who do not have any hours
of instruction for 45 days are automatically considered to
have exited our program. (Adult learners can re-enter however
at any point in which they are ready to focus on education
our expectations of you…
We expect you to
believe in yourself. You can learn!
We expect you to participate in selecting instructional content and
delivery methods that best help you learn
and reach your goals.
We expect you to learn and grow as a reader, writer, and mathematician.
We expect you to attend regularly and show up on time, based on the
schedule you set up, and participate
whole-heartedly in instruction.
We expect you to share at least 1 major accomplishment monthly with us.
We expect you to gain at least 1 grade level on the TABE for every 60
hours of instruction (or at least every
We expect you to attend 6 (or more) hours of class, group, or tutoring
We expect you to practice reading, writing, or math at home every
day for at least 20 minutes each day.
We expect you to use your reading, writing, and math skills in the real
What do you
expect of yourself?
We expect learners to attend 6+ hours of class, group, or
Here are the current options:
Courses, taught by
professional educators, meet once or twice per week for 1.5 to
3.5 hours each. Enrollees must complete the screening process
in order to enter these courses. Most enrollees initially take
the “Read/Write Smarter/Better” course. Exceptions are
considered on an individual basis. The purpose of the
“Read/Write Smarter/Better” is to engage the enrollees in
developing strategic behaviors that increase reading fluency,
explore vocabulary, examine phonics and phonemics, build
spelling skills, develop comprehension strategies, and connect
all of these skills with real-world purposes, materials, and
Mon. & Wed. 10:30-12PM
Tues. & Thur. 8:30-10:30AM
Tues. & Thur. 2:00-4:00PM
Tues. & Thur. 4:30-7:30PM
Mon. & Wed. 8:30-10:30AM
Tues. & Thur. 12:30-2:00PM
Driver License Language
Mon. & Wed. 12:30-2:30PM
Groups, led by
passionate content experts, meet once every two weeks for 2 to
3.5 hours each. Groups are open to all adult learners who have
completed the screening with the learning specialist.
Enrollees can join these groups at any time following the
screening process. These groups are also open to the public.
Therefore, spouses or significant others may also participate
in these groups without going through the screening process.
All offerings have some similar characteristics: 1) reading,
writing, and math are used as tools to think about the topic
matter; 2) vocabulary and spelling are taught as an integral
part of each topic; and 3) authentic materials, guest
speakers, and field trips are used to enhance learning about
the topic. Volunteers and adult learners often assist in the
development of the content, organization, and delivery of
these courses. The topic of each course is influenced, if not
directly determined, by our enrollees.
1st+3rd Thur. 5:30-7:30PM
Writing: 1st+3rd Fri. 3:00-5:30PM
Discussion: 2nd+4th Fri. 3:00-5:30PM
Awakening My Intellectual Genius* every Fri.
(*Topic changes quarterly)
overseen by professional educators or trained volunteers, is
available five days per week for approximately 7.5 hours per
weekday. Our learning lab contains three computers, many
books, teaching materials, and tools dedicated for the sole
use of our adult learners. Selection of instructional
materials (e.g., worksheets, software, or books) depends upon
the learners’ needs and goals to build reading, writing, or
math skills. Depending upon the numbers of learners and their
needs, lab instruction may be delivered as a group. For
example, two or more learners may read and discuss a book
(specific times depend on room use and staff availability)
delivered by trained volunteer tutors, occurs twice per week
in 90-minute sessions (for a minimum of three hours per week)
in a public space, such as a public library. Tutoring focuses
on delivering specific reading, writing, or math instruction
based on the individual’s needs, interests, and goals.
Authentic materials as well as skill books are included in
this instruction. Tutoring is reserved for the adults who have
completed more than 60 hours of course instruction and show
evidence of daily practice and ongoing progress. Matching with
a tutor is also dependent upon the pool of available tutors
and the criteria set by the learners. Learners working with
tutors need to attend at least one other course, group, or lab
to average a total of 6 hours of instruction per week.
locations and times are
negotiated between the tutors and the learners.
Features & Services
This section lists other opportunities available to our adult
Adult Learner Writings book—We publish this book of
writings annually. The published stories are written by our
adult learners. Writings are due by February 20 each year. The
final product is distributed at the annual April Recognition
Dinner and posted on our web site.
Book Group—Readers meet twice monthly at the Main library in
Salt Lake City to read and discuss books. Readers select the
book then read and discuss the contents of the book together
over several months.
Computer lab—We have 3 computers dedicated to instructional
purposes. Adults learn to operate the computer while learning
how to use productivity software to complete assignments and
increase reading, writing, and math skills.
Computer Lending—The Literacy Action Center encourages adult
learners, who work with tutors with e-mail, to exchange e-mail
weekly both as a means of communication and instruction.
Participants in our writing groups are also encouraged to use
computers. For adult learners without computers, we provide
them with computers from donations made to our Center.
Counseling, Community Referrals, & Support Services—Our
learning specialist helps learners identify sources and
connects them with counseling, community referrals, and
support services, as needed.
Great Leaps Reading Program (GLRP) (Campbell, 1996)—We are
piloting this program with enrollees who read slow and
experience a lot of decoding errors. Designed to build reading
speed, GLRP uses one-minute timings to assess errors and
implement strategies. Results of repeated readings are
“Learn how to learn” course—Participants take a 17.5 hour
course to learn about how they learn. This course meets for 5
sessions for 3.5 hours each. Participants examine
teaching/learning strategies, tools, and materials to figure
out which ones work the best for them.
Lending Library— We have the best collection of reading
materials for adult new readers in all of Salt Lake and Davis
Counties. This lending library contains many high interest/low
level books and learning materials written for adults.
Learners are encouraged to check out books at their
independent level to read at home. Books are sorted by reading
level to make it easier to select books at an independent
level for home practice. This library also contains many
support materials for volunteer tutors. All library books and
materials may be accessed in person or via the mail.
Naming Study—This study examines the difference between what
learners can say (decode) and what they can identify. Since
July 2008, this data is collected from all enrollees.
Information is used to inform teaching strategies.
Phonics Study—This study is delivered in three ways: 1) some
participants work on Reading Horizons software, 2) some
participants learn the decoding skills presented in the
Reading Horizons software through class instruction, and 3)
some participants get the instruction from both formats. We
have been collecting data for this study since August 2008.
PowerPath® Screening—Some enrollees complete this screening
tool, too. PowerPath® was designed, specifically for adults
who are reading below a seventh grade level, for the sole
purpose of proposing a list of accommodations or generic
instructional strategies that might make learning easier for
the adult learner. However, we have incorporated the list of
accommodations in our methodology and Tutor Training.
Quarterly goal meetings—Quarterly, learners, tutors, and the
professional staff meet to examine goal attainment. Goals are
identified and prioritized. Specific activities, instructional
methods, and instructional materials that support the
achievement of these goals are spelled out on a planning form.
Most importantly, these goals are written to meet the criteria
of a S.M.A.R.T. goal (specific, measurable, attainable,
relevant, and timely). Review dates are also set at these
meetings. Everyone gets a copy of the plan.
Scotopic Sensitivity Syndrome (SSS)—We do a quick screen for
Scotopic Sensitivity Syndrome (a.k.a. SSS). This condition
results in the print moving on the learner as he reads. One
learner describes print as “ants marching across the page.”
For many of our adults, no one has ever asked this question:
Does the print move on you? These adults have just assumed
that their glasses were not correctly fitted. Their eyes
fatigue so quickly when looking at print that they have given
up. Using one of Irlen’s color overlays often dramatically
increases the time they can spend looking at print, allowing
them time to actually practice reading. (More in-depth
screenings are conducted by U Can Learn for a separate fee.)
Speechcraft Discussion group (Toastmasters®)—This group works
on the skill of talking to friends or strangers without the
fear of being tongue-tied. This group also speaks at
conferences, on panels, and to educators about how to best
help adults who have literacy issues.
Special Projects—Enrollees are given opportunities to
participate in special projects that engage them in using
their literacy skills. For example, learners and tutors
contributed to the making of a video that highlights the
strategies and tools that were helping them learn best in
2007. This video was shared with conference attendees at the
November 2007 ProLiteracy Conference as well as tutors and
other learners at the Literacy Action Center. In 2007,
enrollees wrote to congressional delegates based on political
issues that concerned them. These letters were hand-delivered
to our congressmen in Washington, DC.
Success Wall—Enrollees’ celebrate their successes by posting
them on the Success Wall in the Literacy Action Center’s
classroom. Enrollees who are tutored elsewhere (or their
tutors) submit their successes to the Literacy Action Center
to be posted for them. These successes are used to compile the
annual Recognition Dinner program in April of every year.
Top 10 Readers’ Club—Learners are encouraged to regularly
submit their “Books Read” list to the Literacy Action Center
office. Lists contain the book titles and dates readings were
completed. When the Literacy Action Center office receives
notification that a learner has read ten books, the learner is
enrolled in this club. Enrollment includes a congratulatory
note and bookmark at the time of accomplishment and a
certificate at the next Recognition Dinner.
Web—The Literacy Action Center web site provides resources and
materials to enrollees and the volunteers, plus much more.
Workplace literacy courses—We deliver literacy instruction to
employees at local worksites. Last year, for instance, we
taught a dozen custodians at a local university at their job
Work-related literacy courses—We teach work-related literacy
to adults at our site. Currently, we are teaching 2 employees
from 2 different companies at our site—one is focusing on math
(basic math facts for his warehousing job) and one is focusing
on spelling (for an advancement to a shift leader).
Writing group—Mentors from the Salt Lake Community College
Community Writing Center (SLCC CWC) (210 East 400 South, Salt
Lake City UT 84111 or
www.slcc.edu/cwc) work with our adults twice a month to
develop their writing skills. Twice a year, the participants
in this group read their polished stories before live
audiences and get these stories published in a book.