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News & Updates for March 2018

newsThis month:


March is Read Aloud Month

Every child. Every parent. Every day.

read aloud monthReading aloud is not only the single most important thing a parent or caregiver can do to help prepare a child for reading and learning, it's also a magical connection between parent, child, and book.

If you're a tutor, consider talking about the importance of reading aloud in your class. There's are large Read Aloud posters at each site to get you started - ask staff if you can't find them.

If you volunteer at Wilcrest or Bay Area, tell your students about the Family Literacy events happening at those sites (and consider volunteering at one of them!)

Or, direct parents to resources on the Read Aloud website.

Or, give them copies of the fun activity worksheet Read 15, available in English or Spanish, which was developed by the Barbara Bush Houston Literacy Foundation (with some help from Literacy Advance!) a year or so back.

Read aloud! Every child. Every parent. Every day.


March is Women's History Month

Read about some great women this month

Read about women's MANY contributions to the history of the United States and of the world! There's no better time than March to bring some great stories to your classroom and discuss great women with your students.

Get some inspiration on the official website, or find some of the many biographical books in our Resource Rooms. Each site - Wilcrest, Bay Area, and Waller - has copies of American Lives, a reading series at three different literacy levels.

Or ask your students who inspires them!  Who knows; your students may end up the teacher, and you the student, if you ask them to tell you a story about an inspiring woman! And there's no better learning than that.


Theme of the Month

March: Houston

Students tell us they need to understand, practice, and learn real-life skills on a myriad of topics, so with their help, we developed a Theme of the Month calendar.

As it suggests, we collected resources and developed lesson plans relating to a different theme each month. We gathered a list of related materials and activities, so tutors can access them online and help engage students quickly.

March's theme is Houston, and students say they want to know about:

  • Getting around (our road system is confusing; who knew?!);
  • Hidden treasures (what restaurants are amazing? what free events do you know about?);
  • Particularly Houston events, foods, places, and other (hint: the Livestock Show and Rodeo would be GREAT to talk about);
  • Resources where they can get local help.

Waiting Class tutors, there are Houston-related lesson plans and materials available for you to use, too! Just let us know, and we will be happy to email them to you. You can stop by your campus' Resource Room, or contact Maxine at

And here are the themes for the rest of the year:

Month Theme Possible lesson content
April Money & Banking Houston Money Week; banking options; Promise Credit Union; dangers of Payday Lending
May Housing Paperwork needed to sign a lease; rights and responsibilities of tenants and homeowners
June Jobs How to apply for jobs; what's typical in a US-style resume
July Getting Ready for School Getting kids ready for school; options at school including after-school care and clubs
August Shopping & Restaurants Houston Restaurant Weeks; loyalty clubs and benefits; online shopping risks and benefits
September Immigration & Citizenship Requirements for US citizenship including paperwork and fees
October Health Health Literacy Month; questions to ask the doctor; advocating for your own health
November Libraries What's available at your local library? What does the library provide online?

There's no right or wrong way to use the Theme of the Month calendar. Some months you may use it a lot, and other months less so - we hope you'll continue to be responsive to the needs and goals of the particular students in your class. But we hope this will be a fun addition to your lesson planning, and we'll be providing focused resources and lesson ideas on each topic throughout the year.

Want ideas, or to look at resources that match the themes? Talk to Maxine, our Volunteer Manager: 713.266.8777 or


Top Tutor Tips

Gaining Clarity of Purpose

It’s no secret that adults are goal-oriented. New students come to Literacy Advance to learn something that will solve a problem.

Several studies show that if adult learners can state their goals clearly, they are more likely to come to class; and if they can see that they are making progress, they are more likely to stay.

We even see that hearing and discussing other students’ goals may help them imagine what before seemed impossible, and they may set new goals, and continue to come for different reasons!

This is why our classes begin with goal setting, and why each lesson ends with journaling.

This is why we ask you to set time aside halfway through class for students to do mid-point goal assessments.

This is why we want students to self-assess their progress towards their goals throughout their class, with stories, and near the end of each class, with a goals assessment.

When we ask students to tell us about how their "class at Literacy Advance has helped in their life", they're reflecting on progress towards goals!

Sometimes adults don’t see progress in themselves, so we ask both students and tutors to reflect on successes every few lessons. This clarity provides motivation, relief, and the possibility for adults to make informed decisions about and take responsibility for their own learning.

When learners make informed decisions about what they want to learn, and determine what kind of activities they want to do next, it makes tying lesson plans to student goals easier, and the cycle of growth continues.

So, in the classroom:

  • Please make time, every lesson, for journal reflection. This is intended to help consolidate learning and to give each student a chance to reflect and think.
  • Build time into your lesson planning to revisit goals at the mid-point and end-point of your class. Celebrate successes when you hear them!
  • Make sure you read Student Announcements out loud! They are new every week and we don't always know what each student needs, right now. Please read ALL the announcements to give each student the chance to learn about a new resource, event, or activity that might fit their goals.
  • Give encouragement! Each new piece of language learned, every step toward reading or conversational fluency, is a step toward a goal achieved. Even if a new piece of learning doesn't seem directly related, celebrate with your student(s)! Highlighting progress helps keep students focused.

Next month, we will share how to help students become more proactive in their learning.

"Clarity of purpose" is the second of the six Drivers of Persistence outlined by the wonderful Adult Learner Persistence website. This website and its insights into adult learning has been a pivotal tool in Literacy Advance program development in recent years. Read more about this particular driver here.

If you have any questions or comments about the materials or strategies suggested here, contact Maxine at, or join our powerful online community Literacy Advance Tutor Support Group, for AMAZING people only (spoiler alert: that's you!)


Classes and politics

Keeping class a neutral space

voteIt's an election year! 

And it's natural - and good! - that some of our classes are talking about election-related topics. We definitely want all our adult students to understand the U.S. election system, and for new citizens to know their rights and responsibilities.

It's also crucial that Literacy Advance remains a neutral and safe space.

Politics, like religion, is a topic that should be approached carefully in a classroom space.

It is not appropriate for any volunteer or staff member to openly favor one side or another in politics when talking with our students, or to present information to them in anything other than a neutral and equal manner.

As you and your classes enjoy discussion and learning, please go above and beyond in your efforts to keep Literacy Advance apolitical.

We thank you for your help!


Gulf Coast Literacy Symposium

Free training for YOU!

For the third year running, there's free high-quality training just for YOU.

We listened to your feedback from last year, so the date is a little later - this year's symposium will be on
Saturday, April 28.

And as sessions are being confirmed, we're seeing more and more we think you'll like. There will be MULTIPLE sessions on ESL, ABE, and on general tutoring techniques, so your main concern will be deciding which to attend!

Topics confirmed so far include:

  • Numeracy, math, and money
  • Using the "Information Gap" in the ESL classrsoom
  • Maximizing success when your student has a learning difference
  • Encouraging your students to persist with learning

We plan to have 16 sessions in total, of which you can attend your choice of four. Breakfast and lunch provided, and remember - the whole thing is FREE!

We hope to have record numbers of Literacy Advance tutors register this year, and registration is open now! Read more here, or skip straight to registration.

NOTE: Some of you have approached us about arranging a car pool with other tutors to drive down to the venue as a group. We're looking into the possibility, so stay tuned! If you might be interested in being part of a car pool, please talk to Colleen: 713.266.8777.


Student Success Spotlight

Don't miss this month's Student Success Spotlight!

You helped make it possible.


Calendar Highlights

What's ahead? Mark your calendar!

calendarWe always want you to be up to date! So highlights of the Literacy Advance calendar are summarized below.

A more complete calendar can always be found online here, or you can check our Facebook Events page.

Friday, March 16
Family Literacy event - Wilcrest campus

Friday, March 30 & Saturday, March 31
Literacy Advance CLOSED for Easter

Sunday, April 1
Friends of Literacy Advance:
Look out for Opening Doors, your monthly e-News!

Saturday, April 28
Third annual Gulf Coast Literacy Symposium:
FREE training for tutors!
Registration open now

Friday, October 19
Around the World: 10th annual student & tutor celebration


Find more information just for volunteers:

And finally - don't miss the Volunteer Spotlight!

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