FAQs

Q: What is literacy?

A: Literacy refers to one’s ability to read and write printed materials effectively enough to function in his or her own environment. The definition of literacy is constantly evolving because the demands of society, technology, and the workplace are always growing. Literacy skills are becoming increasingly important for all areas of society such as getting a job or getting a better job and reading medicine labels. Even driving often requires reading skills that many lack.

Q: Are there people in the U.S. who are “illiterate”?

A: Although there are people in the U.S. with extremely low reading and writing skills, and some with virtually no reading or writing skills, the term illiteracy is being used less and less to describe low or no skills. We instead prefer to use the terms literacy and literacy level. One’s literacy level can include knowledge of vocabulary, word recognition, and/or comprehension skills. On the other hand, one’s literacy level might be low, or even zero. Regardless of the individual’s level of skills, we would describe the student’s ability in terms of literacy level rather than labeling that student as “illiterate”.

Q: What is ESL?

A: The term ESL stands for English as a Second Language. Students who are learning English when their first language is something other than English are often referred to as ESL students or learners. Classes and materials that teach English to foreign language speakers can also be referred to as ESL. Other terms commonly used for this are EFL (English as a Foreign Language) and ESOL (English as a Second or Other Language). Teachers of ESL are often referred to as TESL, TESOL, and TEFOL.

Q: Do I need to speak a second language in order to teach ESL?

A: No. It is possible to teach ESL using all English materials and instruction. In a classroom setting, this is the preferred format. It allows an instructor to accommodate students from all language backgrounds. Tutoring sessions are usually performed in English as well, although translations and translated materials may be used when appropriate.

Q: Where do your students come from?

A: Our literacy students are usually from the U.S. and our ESL students come from all over the world. There are over 40 countries represented through our students at any given time. The majority of our students are from Central and South America and from East and Southeast Asia. We also have students from Europe, Africa, and the Middle East.

Q: How is Ozark Literacy Council funded?

A: Ozark Literacy Council is a non-profit (501C-3) organization funded by individual contributions, special events, United Way of Washington County, governmental and private foundation grants.

Q: What age range of students do you serve?

A: We serve students of all ages, however, we primarily serve adults. Literacy councils and Adult Education centers are usually set up with adults in mind because there are so few resources for adults to get help with literacy and language. Much of the funding for ESL and literacy is specifically earmarked for adult instruction. We realize, though, that children who are having trouble at the early stages of reading instruction can oftentimes grow up to be adult students with reading trouble. Because of this, we make every effort to provide resources and services to parents and teachers of younger students as well. We also try to get PTA’s and other parent, teacher, and school organizations involved in working together to help out these students and to make reading an important factor in the home.

Q: What services do you provide?

A: We provide instruction for students to improve their literacy skills and to those studying ESL. We have a weekly schedule of classes and we utilize volunteers to tutor one-on-one. We also have materials such as workbooks, audio resources, video resources, reference material and learning software. In addition to our in-house materials, we also have access to additional materials as well as training through the state’s adult learning resource center. We work with community groups and employers to address various issues concerning literacy and ESL. We also work with state organizations and agencies to discuss and develop policies and to standardize curriculum and instruction across the state.

Q: Who are your tutors?

A: Our tutors are volunteers from the community who give some of their time to meet, help, and teach students who are developing their literacy and/or language skills.

Q: How do you prepare volunteers to become tutors?

A: Volunteers are provided with training through Ozark Literacy Council before becoming tutors. Initially, prospective tutors will attend a workshop in either Literacy Tutor Training or in ESL Tutor Training. These are 3-hour training sessions, which provide information on literacy and ESL, background on various methodologies, and an introduction to the materials available for tutoring sessions. Most tutors are eager to begin, so following this initial training, a tutor is matched with a student according to scheduling needs, preferences, etc.

Additional training sessions are then made available throughout the year, which focus on more specific subject matter pertaining to literacy or ESL instruction. Roundtables, materials training, and suggested readings/internet links are made available as well. Tutors are required to seek out six more hours of these types of additional training and resources within their first year of tutoring. Staff support is also available for questions relating to concerns, materials, or ideas about tutoring.

Q: What kind of commitment is involved as a volunteer tutor?

A: Tutors, upon completion of the initial training, are asked to meet with their student twice a week for an hour at a time. This is ideal; however, schedules can be made for once a week sessions or everyday sessions, depending on the needs of the student and the needs of the tutor. Scheduling is very flexible.

We ask for four months of tutoring from any new tutor but again, length of commitment is flexible. Most tutors meet with their student for six months to a year.

Q: How long will learning to read take? How long will learning English take?

A: This is a tough question to answer. It all depends on the students’ level upon entry to our program, learning rates, and time they spend working on the material and practicing their new skills. Generally it could take anywhere from six months to a year or longer for students to achieve their reading or language goals. For others, it may be a lifelong struggle.

Q: I would like to teach a small group of people, rather than tutoring one-on-one. Are there opportunities available for classroom instructors?

A: Yes. We are always looking to expand our class offerings and one of our biggest impediments is manpower. If you are interested in teaching a class, or being involved in developing a class to teach, please talk to us.

Q: Can I receive academic credit for tutoring a student or instructing a class?

A: We are more than glad to work with your department head, professor, or academic advisor to provide you with an opportunity to teach for credit. Internships are also available. Call us at (479) 521-8250 for more details, come by and visit us at 2596 Keystone Crossing in Fayetteville, AR  72703 or write us!

Q: I want to volunteer, but I am not sure if tutoring or instructing is right for me. What else can I do to help?

A: We have many volunteer opportunities available. Please see the Volunteering page on our website for a list of some of the areas in which help is always needed.

What is literacy?
Literacy refers to one’s ability to read and write printed materials effectively enough to function in his or her own environment. The definition of literacy is constantly evolving because the demands of society, technology, and the workplace are always growing. Literacy skills are becoming increasingly important for all areas of society such as getting a job or getting a better job and reading medicine labels. Even driving often requires reading skills that many lack.

Are there people in the U.S. who are “illiterate”?
Although there are people in the U.S. with extremely low reading and writing skills, and some with virtually no reading or writing skills, the term illiteracy is being used less and less to describe low or no skills. We instead prefer to use the terms literacy and literacy level. One’s literacy level can include knowledge of vocabulary, word recognition, and/or comprehension skills. On the other hand, one’s literacy level might be low, or even zero. Regardless of the individual’s level of skills, we would describe the student’s ability in terms of literacy level rather than labeling that student as “illiterate”.

What is ESL?
The term ESL stands for English as a Second Language. Students who are learning English when their first language is something other than English are often referred to as ESL students or learners. Classes and materials that teach English to foreign language speakers can also be referred to as ESL. Other terms commonly used for this are EFL (English as a Foreign Language) and ESOL (English as a Second or Other Language). Teachers of ESL are often referred to as TESL, TESOL, and TEFOL.

Do I need to speak a second language in order to teach ESL?
No. It is possible to teach ESL using all English materials and instruction. In a classroom setting, this is the preferred format. It allows an instructor to accommodate students from all language backgrounds. Tutoring sessions are usually performed in English as well, although translations and translated materials may be used when appropriate.

Where do your students come from?
Our literacy students are usually from the U.S. and our ESL students come from all over the world. There are over 40 countries represented through our students at any given time. The majority of our students are from Central and South America and from East and Southeast Asia. We also have students from Europe, Africa, and the Middle East.

How is Ozark Literacy Council funded?
Ozark Literacy Council is a non-profit (501C-3) organization funded by individual contributions, special events, United Way of Washington County, governmental and private foundation grants.

What age range of students do you serve?
We serve students of all ages, however, we primarily serve adults. Literacy councils and Adult Education centers are usually set up with adults in mind because there are so few resources for adults to get help with literacy and language. Much of the funding for ESL and literacy is specifically earmarked for adult instruction. We realize, though, that children who are having trouble at the early stages of reading instruction can oftentimes grow up to be adult students with reading trouble. Because of this, we make every effort to provide resources and services to parents and teachers of younger students as well. We also try to get PTA’s and other parent, teacher, and school organizations involved in working together to help out these students and to make reading an important factor in the home.

What services do you provide?
We provide instruction for students to improve their literacy skills and to those studying ESL. We have a weekly schedule of classes and we utilize volunteers to tutor one-on-one. We also have materials such as workbooks, audio resources, video resources, reference material and learning software. In addition to our in-house materials, we also have access to additional materials as well as training through the state’s adult learning resource center. We work with community groups and employers to address various issues concerning literacy and ESL. We also work with state organizations and agencies to discuss and develop policies and to standardize curriculum and instruction across the state.

Who are your tutors?
Our tutors are volunteers from the community who give some of their time to meet, help, and teach students who are developing their literacy and/or language skills.

How do you prepare volunteers to become tutors?
Volunteers are provided with training through Ozark Literacy Council before becoming tutors. Initially, prospective tutors will attend a workshop in either Literacy Tutor Training or in ESL Tutor Training. These are 3-hour training sessions, which provide information on literacy and ESL, background on various methodologies, and an introduction to the materials available for tutoring sessions. Most tutors are eager to begin, so following this initial training, a tutor is matched with a student according to scheduling needs, preferences, etc.

Additional training sessions are then made available throughout the year, which focus on more specific subject matter pertaining to literacy or ESL instruction. Roundtables, materials training, and suggested readings/internet links are made available as well. Tutors are required to seek out six more hours of these types of additional training and resources within their first year of tutoring. Staff support is also available for questions relating to concerns, materials, or ideas about tutoring.

What kind of commitment is involved as a volunteer tutor?
Tutors, upon completion of the initial training, are asked to meet with their student twice a week for an hour at a time. This is ideal; however, schedules can be made for once a week sessions or everyday sessions, depending on the needs of the student and the needs of the tutor. Scheduling is very flexible.

We ask for four months of tutoring from any new tutor but again, length of commitment is flexible. Most tutors meet with their student for six months to a year.

How long will learning to read take? How long will learning English take?
This is a tough question to answer. It all depends on the students’ level upon entry to our program, learning rates, and time they spend working on the material and practicing their new skills. Generally it could take anywhere from six months to a year or longer for students to achieve their reading or language goals. For others, it may be a lifelong struggle.

I would like to teach a small group of people, rather than tutoring one-on-one. Are there opportunities available for classroom instructors?
Yes. We are always looking to expand our class offerings and one of our biggest impediments is manpower. If you are interested in teaching a class, or being involved in developing a class to teach, please talk to us.

Can I receive academic credit for tutoring a student or instructing a class?
We are more than glad to work with your department head, professor, or academic advisor to provide you with an opportunity to teach for credit. Internships are also available. Call us at (479) 521-8250 for more details, come by and visit us at 2596 Keystone Crossing in Fayetteville, AR  72703 or write us!

I want to volunteer, but I am not sure if tutoring or instructing is right for me. What else can I do to help?
We have many volunteer opportunities available. Please see the Volunteering page on our website for a list of some of the areas in which help is always needed.

Subscribe to Our Newsletter

Subscribe to Our Newsletter

Join our mailing list to receive the latest news and updates from the Ozark Literacy Council.

You have Successfully Subscribed!