Become an Adult Literacy Volunteer

Teach an adult to read. Inspire the world to change. 

Adults across the country need help to gain basic literacy, math, or computer skills that will enable them to succeed as workers, parents, and community citizens. When adults reach their educational goals, their families and communities grow stronger. With the critical support of our dedicated volunteers, we can make a difference.

Volunteers are vital to the success of students and literacy programs. They bring optimism and enthusiasm, create positive energy, and share diverse perspectives that lead to enhanced learning outcomes for students.

Click the "Volunteer Now" button to be taken to the National Literacy Directory. This database lists thousands of adult literacy programs that could use your help! Search by zip code, city, or state, and by the number of miles you are willing to travel. The database will return programs you can contact in your area. Thank you for volunteering!

At this time we are only able to refer programs within the United States. 

Frequently Asked Questions

Why volunteer?

By volunteering, you can offer vital help to people in need and your community, and it’s something you can feel good about. For some, it’s a chance to make a difference to the people around them. For others, it provides an opportunity to develop new skills or build on existing experience and knowledge. One of the better-known benefits of volunteering is the impact it can have on a community. Volunteering allows you to connect with your community and make it a better place. Even helping out with the smallest tasks can make a real difference to the lives of people in need.Whatever your reason, we believe volunteering can transform you and the world around you.

Who can volunteer?

Tutors should be passionate about sharing their skills and knowledge with adults who want to improve their reading, writing, and technology skills. Anyone with reasonable levels of reading and numeracy can get involved. Consistency is important to learners, so you will need to commit to a regular volunteering slot. Classes often takes place in evenings, meaning full-time workers are often able to volunteer.


  • A strong commitment to helping people learn to read and write
  • High school diploma or equivalent
  • Excellent communication skills: ability to speak, read and write English fluently
  • Ability to use computer technology a plus
  • Experience is not required—All volunteers receive training

What does it entail?

Literacy and numeracy can improve job prospects, earning potential, self-confidence and pride. This helps in personal development as well as community regeneration. Volunteers will teach basic reading and writing skills and encourage reading for education and pleasure.

Where possible, skills are taught in a way that relates to the learners’ day-to-day lives with individualized learning plans. Many learners already have basic skills but need help to polish them, some are starting at the very beginning, and others need more in-depth, specialist teaching.

Volunteers are also needed to help teach English as a second language to refugees and immigrants.

By volunteering two or more hours per week, you can give an adult the skills they need to become a successful worker, parent, or citizen. Both tutors and students find this rewarding: it changes their lives.

Who are adult learners?

Adult students who attend classes are over the age of 16, represent all races and genders, and come from all economic and social backgrounds. They may have completed high school or left before graduation, but did not acquire the literacy and comprehension skills they need to be successful.

Basic Adult Literacy: Tutors work with adults who wish to improve reading and writing skills.
High School Equivalency (HSE): Tutors help adult students prepare for their HSE exams by tutoring them in one or more subject areas including math, science, social studies, writing, or reading.
English Language Learning (ELL): Tutors help students learn to speak, read, and write in basic English..
Math: Tutors teach math skills, ranging from basic numeracy to algebra and geometry.
College and Career Readiness: Tutors help adults who have earned their high school diploma or equivalency degree prepare for college or brush up on their reading, writing, or math skills to gain employment and job search skills.
Citizenship: Tutors help refugees and immigrants learn English, history, and civics in order to pass the U.S. naturalization test.
Digital Literacy: Tutors help adults gain the basic computer skills they need to survive and thrive in today's digital world and workplace.

Successful adult literacy volunteers have the following characteristics:

  • Dependability, promptness, patience, flexibility, and friendliness
  • Interest in diverse cultures and stories
  • Ability to relate to people from many backgrounds
  • A willingness to provide respectful and relevant instructional content
  • A willingness to work with and take direction from program staff
  • Interest in serving the community
  • Ability to speak, read, and write English fluently

Do I need training?

Yes! It's fun, you'll learn a lot, and you'll become a more confident and effective volunteer. It is a great service to your learners to be better trained to teach or tutor them.

Where will I get the training and teaching materials?

Adult literacy programs will provide training to volunteers. Additional training and professional development opportunities may also be available throughout the year to enrich your skills. A wide variety of teaching materials are available for your use.

What is the time commitment involved?

Most literacy programs suggest that a new tutor meet with their adult learner at least once or twice a week for 1½ to 2 hours per session. Maintaining this time commitment is important in helping the student acquire his or her skills as quickly as possible. Tutoring may be scheduled for any day or time (day or evening). Most programs ask tutors to consider making a commitment for at least 6 months.

How will I be matched with an adult learner?

Once you have completed your training, you will be matched with an adult learner who matches your preferences and availability. Most tutors are able to get started within a few weeks of completing their training.

Do I need to speak a language other than English to tutor?

No. In fact, English language learners often progress more quickly if their teacher or tutor does not speak or use their language in the classroom. At training, you will learn instructional methods that don't require same language use.

Do I have to be an expert in English grammar?

No. Anyone with basic reading and writing skills can become a volunteer. Resources are available to you to sharpen your skills.

Where do lessons take place?

Tutoring is conducted in libraries or in other locations convenient to both the learner and the tutor.

What if I can't commit to the schedule? Can I take a break during my time commitment?

Ask whether the program has volunteer openings with flexible scheduling or opportunities to substitute. Let your site coordinator and learners know ahead of time if you will be absent. Learners’ progress relies on a positive, consistent relationship with their tutor.