Frederick County’s Literacy Council, a nonprofit that has helped adults learn to speak and read English for nearly 60 years, is seeking new volunteers to assist with its tutoring and curriculum-based ESL programming.
The Literacy Council currently has more than 100 active tutors, Executive Director Laurie Fisher said. It is hoping to expand its tutoring team in the coming months to better meet the demand for literacy instruction in the community and offer new classes to students, according to Fisher.
On average, the council supports about 250 adults per year through one-on-one and small group tutoring sessions and other classes, including conversation, writing and U.S. Civics workshops. There are about 50 adults on the organization’s waitlist, Fisher said, and the council receives new inquiries from adults seeking assistance every week.
When the Literacy Council was founded in 1963, its initial goal was to provide literacy training to migrant workers in the county who were native English speakers but struggled to read and write in the language. Today, though Fisher said the nonprofit still works with some native English speakers, she estimated more than 90 percent of its students are English language learners who are either new to Frederick County or who have been in the area for many years and haven’t yet learned English on a functional level.
She added that the council works with adults who are at the lowest literacy levels; for those who are more advanced, the nonprofit refers them to Frederick Community College or other programs in the community.
After receiving support from the council, people have been able to better access critical services they need, help their children with their schoolwork and secure new or better employment opportunities, according to Fisher.
“We talk about how literacy lifts lives and it does it in so many ways,” she said. “It makes a huge difference having the volunteers be able to help provide that individual support to the adults that they’re working with. And it just absolutely changes people’s lives.”
Volunteers interested in being trained as tutors don’t have to have prior teaching experience or experience working with English language learners, Fisher said. After attending a volunteer information session, those interested in working with the council receive training from experienced tutors and use curriculum with prepared lesson plans and workbooks while working with students, as well as other teaching and learning materials from the nonprofit’s lending library.
The council is also seeking volunteers who do have teaching experience or experience working with English language learners, Fisher said. These people will help lead curriculum-based ESL classes for the nonprofit that will meet weekly for 60-90 minutes for eight to 12 weeks.
The Literacy Council will be holding eight volunteer information sessions between November and January and three sets of training sessions during the same time period. Interested volunteers must attend an information session before attending a training workshop.
Fisher said the council’s goal is to train about 50 new volunteers over the next three workshops.
Volunteers interested in becoming tutors must have basic digital literacy skills — familiarization with using a smartphone, computer and other online platforms — and all must be over the age of 18 and live or work in Frederick County.