Words are all around us. We can use reading, writing or spoken language skills to enrich almost any aspect of our lives. No one is unable to use words. Some of us use spoken English better than we read and write; others read and write better. Regardless, all adults have many skills and experiences involving language already. Volunteer tutors help adults enhance the skills they already have through reading, writing or spoken English. An initial training orientation provides tutors with everything needed to begin, and very user-friendly lesson plans and additional training opportunities throughout the tutoring process help tutors continue to share their knowledge of written or spoken English words.
Volunteer tutors provide the only opportunity available in many communities for adults to work on beginning reading and writing skills. For adult students, it is likely an opportunity he or she has felt beyond reach for many years. In addition to materials provided by the library, tutors also help students with applications of reading and writing that can be put into use immediately, such as reading easy picture books (if the student has young children), reading and writing for work, or handling personal tasks such as writing words necessary in paying bills. Students speak English well; for most it is their native language. Students and tutors usually work together one-on-one, although groups of two or three also are possible if all students have similar reading and writing abilities.
ESL tutors work with adults who are not fluent in English. Whether they have attended many or few years of school in their native country, they must start new lives and careers in the United States and need English language skills as they do so. Tutors may provide ESL students with one of their first points of contact regarding a new culture and community. ESL students and tutors usually work in dynamic groups of three to five. The variety of lesson activities is almost limitless and designed to enable all students to participate more in work or community life and assist their children in school. It's not necessary for tutors to be able to speak another language.
Upcoming initial training sessions are available. Please see http://www.hcpl.net/literacy/literacy-english-second-language  for a list of branch libraries that are hosting sessions.
More Information About Tutoring
Are there any requirements for tutors?
You must be 18 years old or above; be able to read, write and speak English well; have an interest in other cultures and ways of life; and respect for students' confidentiality.
How soon after the initial training orientation do class or tutoring sessions begin?
We will call you soon after the initial workshop to give you contact information and to discuss a student's level and some of his or her reading and writing goals. When calling the student, remember that some students are concerned about confidentiality. If you will be working with a group, we will help set up the first session and check to see that students are at similar levels of reading, writing and/or spoken English ability.
How often and how long should we meet?
We encourage tutors and students to meet twice per week. However, the number of sessions per week and the length of time depends on the schedule of the individual tutor and students. If you only are available once per week, and your student is available more often, we can match you with a partner tutor who would conduct a second weekly session if you would like to try this. If you have a vacation planned or cannot attend for some reason, just let your student know about this (the student should do the same).
What is the duration of tutoring sessions or classes?
Completion of course materials could easily take two years or more. We understand that for many tutors and students, a change in job, location, or family can intervene during this period.
Where will I meet students?
Most tutors meet at the library. Check with a librarian to reserve a meeting room, but be sure to do this in advance to help prevent scheduling conflicts. Meeting room availability differs from branch-to-branch. It is also possible to conduct sessions at a church or community center.
Is there a charge for training and books?
No, this is a service provided by Harris County Public Library and is free to tutors and students.
How do I obtain books?
We will provide some of your teaching materials at the training workshop. Since some materials depend on the student's level, some teaching materials and the student books will be provided once you are matched with a student. You can pick up teacher's editions prior to meeting with the student. If you have more than one student, you will pick up books for your students at your first session. Student workbooks in your main series of books (check with the coordinator about this) can be used by the student without being checked out, but other items in the library must be returned or renewed before their checkout expires. Any time you need additional books, ask a contact at your branch library or call 713-749-9035.
How is this program funded?
Regular library budgets as well as support from local businesses, grants and Friends of the Library groups enable the library to provide materials as well as other resources, such as computer software. If you and/or your student(s) would like to join the Friends of the Library, please do so! Ask any staff member for more details.
What type of paper work will I be required to do?
At the end of each month, please fill out an attendance sheet that indicates how many times and the toal number of hours your students have met during the month, which level of books you are working in, and any other observations you or your student have had about the impact of the sessions during the month. This is important in tracking the progress of the literacy program.
How can I, or my student, get a library card?
All that is needed is some form of identifcation with a current name and address. Along with helping your student get a library card, take some time to include the library in some of your lessons. Children's picture books and programs in particular will be very helpful to your student in learning to read if he or she has young children. Please ask a library for more information.
Thank you for your interesting volunteering and in the library
We all depend on people like you to stand for a literate community and nation!