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News & Updates for May 2018

newsThis month:


Barbara Bush

In tribute to the First Lady of Literacy

With great sadness we mark the passing of Barbara Bush, the First Lady of Literacy and one of Houston's own.

Her contributions to literacy were monumental, and will not be forgotten. She leaves behind a legacy of public service, in particular a conviction for literacy and education. Of her cause she once said,

"I chose literacy because I honestly believe that if more people could read, write, and comprehend, we would be that much closer to solving so many of the problems that plague our nation and our society."

We are grateful for the countless hours she devoted to the literacy cause, and thankful for the ongoing work of the Barbara Bush Houston Literacy Foundation.


Get ready for Scrabble!

Something special just for this year...

There's no Scrabble in the City this year - but that doesn't mean there's no Scrabble at all!

Scrabble in the City will be back in a BIG way in 2019, our 55th anniversary. In the meantime, we have some special celebrations planned for this year.

There'll be festivities over multiple days in late summer (they might coincide with the North American Scrabble Championship, or they might not...) and we'll have prizes for creativity and FUN as well as for your wordsmithing abilities. 

All will be revealed in the coming weeks! Stay tuned...


Wanted: One AmeriCorps VISTA 

Program Support Specialist needed!

Want a fabulous year-long opportunity?
Know someone who might?

Literacy Advance is seeking a Program Support Specialist to connect adults and families to vital literacy resources; engage in key elements of program design and implementation; and support the valuable volunteers who lead English and literacy classes, all through the AmeriCorps VISTA program.

Find more details, including how to apply, here.


Summer Internships at Literacy Advance

Get GREAT experience this summer at Literacy Advance!

Every summer we pride ourselves on our robust internship program and the variety of experiences and learning we can provide for our interns.

We're looking for this year's interns, to work with us in Programs or Development.

All information, including role descriptions and how to apply, can be found here.


Summer Semester at Literacy Advance

We'd love your help over the summer; please get in touch

summer Summer in Houston is an interesting time! Some people have extra free time they can give us (thank you!) while others are out of town and unavailable for some weeks or even months (safe travels and have a great time!)

TUTORS: Please help us get organized by letting us know if you're willing and able to lead a class this summer.

For continuing tutors:

If you tutored a class within the last two years (including if you're a current tutor) and will be tutoring this summer – THANK YOU! We want to give you first choice of the days and times for your class, so take a look at Wilcrest needs hereBay Area here, and Waller here.

For returning and new tutors

If you want to tutor over the summer and it's been two years or more since you last tutored with us, or if you haven't tutored with us yet – WE ARE SO HAPPY TO WELCOME YOU (BACK)! To complete a class over the summer, you should sign up for a Story Time tour and a Tutor Workshop as soon as possible.

Please contact us with any questions: 713.266.8777 or


Gulf Coast Literacy Symposium

THANK YOU for coming!

What a wonderful day we had together! Thank you to all our attendees, in particular our presenters, who shared so willingly of their time and expertise. 

And huge thanks to our partners, who helped make the symposium possible:

Presenting partner: Literacy Texas

Breakfast sponsor: Kolache Factory

Lunch sponsor: Panera Bread

Prize sponsor: Goya


Top Tutor Tips


All adults have a need to feel competent in key aspects of their lives.

Deciding to return to school as an adult shows a desire to build competence in areas which more education can address, for example:

  • reading with their children,
  • navigating life in an English-speaking environment, or
  • getting a better job.

In that process, adults’ beliefs about and realistic assessment of their competence in these specific areas can have a profound effect on their persistence and achievement. Such beliefs reflect their self-efficacy.

Self-efficacy refers to people’s beliefs in their capabilities to learn or perform specific tasks at particular levels, and to meet specific goals. In short, feeling capable is key to confidence, which can affect a student's ability to stick with class and keep coming back.

Adult learners may have a high level of self-efficacy in non-academic areas such as to fix a car, build a house, sew an outfit, play baseball, fix hair and so on, while their self-efficacy in reading or writing English can be low. However, a positive self-concept, i.e. an overall feeling of self-worth, aids self-efficacy and vice versa.

This is why we ask you to build lessons around practical skills, not just learn the theory of language, or focus on grammar.

This is why we choose an adult-focused curriculum, not one designed for children or even teenagers who are not navigating life as adults just yet.

This is also why it can be so helpful to find a topic on which the student(s) already know a great deal, and incorporate it into classwork. If you can, get the student(s) to teach you, the tutor! Nothing helps confidence like helping someone else understand.

Next month, we will explore more about why stability is a key piece of adult learner persistence.

"Competence" is the fourth 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 us at, or join our powerful online community Literacy Advance Tutor Support Group, for AMAZING people only (spoiler alert: that's you!)


Theme of the Month

May: Housing

housesStudents 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.

One of the most basic needs in life is to have a safe and secure place to live.

The Life Skills shelf in your nearest Resource Room (Wilcrest, Bay Area, or Waller) contains relevant materials and activities to help. You can find all kinds of information!

Living in America: Knowing Your Rights and Responsibilities includes units on Understanding a Lease and Maintaining Housing, or you can find detailed materials all about safety and smoke alarms in the Home Safety Literacy Project booklet.

Our ready-to-go lesson plans include listening, speaking, reading, writing, and comprehension activities on a variety of housing-related topics, such as:

  • Apartments and Rights
  • Home Ownership
  • Renting vs. Buying
  • Utilities & Maintenance

To receive a copy of one of these lessons or explore more, you can stop by the Resource Room, or email Maxine at

On a related topic - we highly recommend the book Evicted: Poverty and Profit in the American City, by Matthew Desmond. Based on years of embedded fieldwork and painstakingly gathered data, this masterful book transforms our understanding of extreme poverty and economic exploitation while providing fresh ideas for solving a devastating, uniquely American problem. Its unforgettable scenes of hope and loss remind us of the centrality of home, without which nothing else is possible.

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

Month Theme Possible lesson content
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 Colleen: 713.266.8777 or


Student Success Spotlights

Don't miss our Student Success Spotlights!

You helped make them 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.

Saturday, May 26 & Monday, May 28
Literacy Advance CLOSED for Memorial Day

July 2 - July 7
Literacy Advance CLOSED for July 4 & Summer Break

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

Saturday, December 22
LAST DAY of classes in 2018


Find more information just for volunteers:

And finally - don't miss the Volunteer Spotlight!

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