Frequently Asked Questions

Do I have to be an expert in English grammar?

No. English speakers of all levels are welcome and encouraged to volunteer. Resources are available to you through our trainers and tutor tips. We offer ongoing in-service workshops and conferences to sharpen your skills.

Do I need to speak the same language as my learners?

Absolutely not! In fact, English language (ESL) students often progress more quickly if their teacher or tutor does not speak or use their language in the classroom. At our trainings, you will learn instructional methods that don't require same language use.

Do I really need training?

Yes! It's fun, you'll learn a lot, and you'll become a more confident and effective volunteer. Plus, most of our Volunteer Literacy Programs ask volunteers to complete the Pre-Service Training before they begin. It is a great service to your learners to be better trained to teach or tutor them.

Which of the two Pre-Service Trainings should I take?

ESL Tutor Pre-Service Training is for those who want to teach adult immigrants and refugees how to speak, read and write in English.  Reading, Writing, Math and GED Tutor Pre-Service Training is for those who want to help life-long English speakers and advanced English language learners to improve their reading, writing and math skills or prepare for the GED exam.

Why do you charge a fee to become a volunteer?

The fee helps cover the training costs, including the books and materials you will receive there. Financial hardship fee waivers are available for those unable to pay the fee. The literacy council does not profit from these fees, and we appreciate the willingness of volunteers to share the cost.

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

Ask whether we have volunteer openings in programs 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.

Will I be given a curriculum to teach or do I create lessons myself?

Each program has a unique curriculum to serve the needs of their learners. The level of a volunteer's responsibility for lesson planning varies depending on the needs of a program. Many programs ask volunteers to keep a log where challenges and suggestions are recorded. Schedule extra time for lesson planning if your site does not provide a set curriculum. All programs provide support from staff, as well as the necessary books, activities and materials.

Can my teenager or youth group volunteer?

Teenagers can participate in training and at some sites along with a parent or guardian. Ask your site coordinator about their under-18 policy. Download the under-age volunteer form and review a sample form that you should be asked to sign wherever your teenager volunteers. This helps you understand what your teenager's responsibilities will be and indicates that sound risk management policies are in place.

How do I apply to volunteer?

Application procedures vary between organizations.  Contact the site where you're interested in volunteering for detailed application information.  To apply to volunteer at the literacy council's Open Door Learning Center, fill out our online application.

There are so many options for tutoring. Who can tell me about the best placement for me?

Contact Wendy Roberts at or fill out a Volunteer Interest Form.