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Who are our learners? Getting involved Expectations
Instructional Offerings Additional Features & Services

Please note: The adults who need our help can’t read this web site. If you know someone living in our area who needs our help, please tell them about us.

Who are our learners?

We focus on adults who:
  speak English
  enter our program with less than fifth grade reading, writing, or math skills
  live in Salt Lake County or Davis County, Utah

We are not an English-as-a-Second-Language program. We are not a babysitting service. We are not a school district and cannot give out high school credit. We do however work with adults who speak English as another language but still struggle with reading, writing, or math. We do work with adults with a range of disabilities. And, we do help adults work on their high school diplomas in conjunction with one of the adult high schools in Salt Lake or Davis County.

Our adult learners are often the most difficult to reach and teach. They often have numerous other problems besides illiteracy. These adults spent their early years struggling with print. They have spent their later years avoiding print. By the time they finally reach out for help to remediate their patterns of behavior, these adults are quite skeptical and frightened. They are uncertain and doubtful about their abilities to learn. Formal testing, misconstrued words, and misperceived body language add to their misgivings about pursuing help. Consequently, these adults often do not want anyone to know about them. They hide in public, hoping no one will catch on to their ongoing cover-ups.

These adults typically report the following:

1) Never learned phonics—They state that they can’t read because they can’t figure out how to sound out words.
2) “Stupid” or “You’ll never learn nothin’”—They report that a teacher or family member said these things (or worse) to them. These adult learners haven’t forgotten. Unfortunately, they have come to believe that they can’t learn.
3) Difficulty focusing—They are often distracted by others around them and the size of tasks.
4) Forget easily—Short-term memory problems abound in these adults. Showing them something once typically does not result in learning.
5) Scared—They are frightened that people will find out their secret. Initially our enrollees don’t want people to know where they are spending their time.
6) “I’m the only one”—They are certain that no one else has literacy issues.
Since these six statements and other similar statements are told to us repeatedly by the adults we serve, these statements are crucial in helping us design the structure and delivery of our services for English-speaking adults who have low-literacy skills.

Getting Involved

The adults we teach are scared and embarrassed.
They think there is no one else like them. They think they cannot learn.
Our job? Make them feel at ease from the first phone call.

Adults entering our program have hidden their secrets for many years. Their meeting with our learning specialist may be the first time they have asked for help from a stranger. It may be a frightening experience for these adults. Because we need the commitment from the adult learners, not their friends and family members, we require that the adult learners make the first appointments themselves. When the learners call, our caring, sensitive learning specialist puts the adults at ease over the telephone as she explains the program requirements.

Our intake screening process begins with a phone call from the learner to set up
an appointment with our learning specialist, then leads to course enrollment.

Screening: Complete 3 screening meetings (about six hours) with the learning specialist. To the first meeting: Bring something the learner can read and understand easily (e.g., if he can only read his name then bring an envelope with his name and address on it; if he can read some words then bring a children’s book containing those words). And bring something the learner would like to read but it is currently too hard (learner’s choice but it must be something the learner cares about reading). Subsequent meetings focus on completing informal inventories and the Test of Adult Basic Education (TABE) to develop instructional plans, set initial goals, and teach, bring a book that the learner is reading for twenty minutes daily to show progress and discuss concerns.

Attendance: After the completion of the screening process, attend a minimum of 6 hours of instruction weekly (more opportunities are available, depending upon the learner’s availability). When the learner has attended a minimum of 60 hours and shows evidence of ongoing practice, then the learner becomes eligible for a one-on-one tutor. Tutoring will be ninety-minutes twice a week at a public library, in addition to attending at least one course or group. (Note: While matching learners with one-on-one tutors is a priority, these matches are greatly influenced by the availability of our trained community volunteers.)

Progress: Practice reading & writing for at least 20 minutes daily (no matter how tired or busy they are). Regularly complete home practice assignments. Learners must show progress and goal accomplishment. (This aspect of the program is essential to maintaining personal enthusiasm and keeping a good tutor. Progress is equal to paying the tutor for her time spent.) Bottom line: Learners must willingly do the work.

Fees: Pay $30-$100 annual fee. No one may use the fee as an excuse not to get help from us. (Note: We do not receive state funding. Screening, testing, materials, and instruction costs us over $800 per person annually. See Partners & Donors and How You Can Help for more information about donors and making donations.)

Exiting: Adult learners may exit or (re)enter our program at any point. Adult learners who do not have any hours of instruction for 45 days are automatically considered to have exited our program. (Adult learners can re-enter however at any point in which they are ready to focus on education again.)


Here are our expectations of you…

 We expect you to believe in yourself. You can learn!
 We expect you to participate in selecting instructional content and delivery methods that best help you learn
  and reach your goals.
 We expect you to learn and grow as a reader, writer, and mathematician.
 We expect you to attend regularly and show up on time, based on the schedule you set up, and participate
  whole-heartedly in instruction.
 We expect you to share at least 1 major accomplishment monthly with us.
 We expect you to gain at least 1 grade level on the TABE for every 60 hours of instruction (or at least every
  6 months).
 We expect you to attend 6 (or more) hours of class, group, or tutoring weekly.
 We expect you to practice reading, writing, or math at home every day for at least 20 minutes each day.
 We expect you to use your reading, writing, and math skills in the real world.

What do you expect of yourself?

Instructional Offerings

We expect learners to attend 6+ hours of class, group, or tutoring weekly.
Here are the current options:

Courses, taught by professional educators, meet once or twice per week for 1.5 to 3.5 hours each. Enrollees must complete the screening process in order to enter these courses. Most enrollees initially take the “Read/Write Smarter/Better” course. Exceptions are considered on an individual basis. The purpose of the “Read/Write Smarter/Better” is to engage the enrollees in developing strategic behaviors that increase reading fluency, explore vocabulary, examine phonics and phonemics, build spelling skills, develop comprehension strategies, and connect all of these skills with real-world purposes, materials, and activities.

Read/Write Smarter & Better
Mon. & Wed. 10:30-12PM
Tues. & Thur. 8:30-10:30AM
Tues. & Thur. 2:00-4:00PM
Tues. & Thur. 4:30-7:30PM
Everyday Math
Mon. & Wed. 8:30-10:30AM
Tues. & Thur. 12:30-2:00PM

Driver License Language
Mon. & Wed. 12:30-2:30PM

Groups, led by passionate content experts, meet once every two weeks for 2 to 3.5 hours each. Groups are open to all adult learners who have completed the screening with the learning specialist. Enrollees can join these groups at any time following the screening process. These groups are also open to the public. Therefore, spouses or significant others may also participate in these groups without going through the screening process. All offerings have some similar characteristics: 1) reading, writing, and math are used as tools to think about the topic matter; 2) vocabulary and spelling are taught as an integral part of each topic; and 3) authentic materials, guest speakers, and field trips are used to enhance learning about the topic. Volunteers and adult learners often assist in the development of the content, organization, and delivery of these courses. The topic of each course is influenced, if not directly determined, by our enrollees.

Writing: 1st+3rd Thur. 5:30-7:30PM
Writing: 1st+3rd Fri. 3:00-5:30PM

Discussion: 2nd+4th Fri. 3:00-5:30PM
Awakening My Intellectual Genius* every Fri. 8:30AM-12PM
(*Topic changes quarterly)

Instructional Lab, overseen by professional educators or trained volunteers, is available five days per week for approximately 7.5 hours per weekday. Our learning lab contains three computers, many books, teaching materials, and tools dedicated for the sole use of our adult learners. Selection of instructional materials (e.g., worksheets, software, or books) depends upon the learners’ needs and goals to build reading, writing, or math skills. Depending upon the numbers of learners and their needs, lab instruction may be delivered as a group. For example, two or more learners may read and discuss a book together.

Open Lab—Mon-Fri 8:30-4:00 PM
(specific times depend on room use and staff availability)

One-on-one tutoring, delivered by trained volunteer tutors, occurs twice per week in 90-minute sessions (for a minimum of three hours per week) in a public space, such as a public library. Tutoring focuses on delivering specific reading, writing, or math instruction based on the individual’s needs, interests, and goals. Authentic materials as well as skill books are included in this instruction. Tutoring is reserved for the adults who have completed more than 60 hours of course instruction and show evidence of daily practice and ongoing progress. Matching with a tutor is also dependent upon the pool of available tutors and the criteria set by the learners. Learners working with tutors need to attend at least one other course, group, or lab to average a total of 6 hours of instruction per week.

Tutoring—specific locations and times are
negotiated between the tutors and the learners.

Additional Features & Services

This section lists other opportunities available to our adult learners.

Adult Learner Writings book—We publish this book of writings annually. The published stories are written by our adult learners. Writings are due by February 20 each year. The final product is distributed at the annual April Recognition Dinner and posted on our web site.

Book Group—Readers meet twice monthly at the Main library in Salt Lake City to read and discuss books. Readers select the book then read and discuss the contents of the book together over several months.

Computer lab—We have 3 computers dedicated to instructional purposes. Adults learn to operate the computer while learning how to use productivity software to complete assignments and increase reading, writing, and math skills.

Computer Lending—The Literacy Action Center encourages adult learners, who work with tutors with e-mail, to exchange e-mail weekly both as a means of communication and instruction. Participants in our writing groups are also encouraged to use computers. For adult learners without computers, we provide them with computers from donations made to our Center.

Counseling, Community Referrals, & Support Services—Our learning specialist helps learners identify sources and connects them with counseling, community referrals, and support services, as needed.

Great Leaps Reading Program (GLRP) (Campbell, 1996)—We are piloting this program with enrollees who read slow and experience a lot of decoding errors. Designed to build reading speed, GLRP uses one-minute timings to assess errors and implement strategies. Results of repeated readings are charted.

“Learn how to learn” course—Participants take a 17.5 hour course to learn about how they learn. This course meets for 5 sessions for 3.5 hours each. Participants examine teaching/learning strategies, tools, and materials to figure out which ones work the best for them.

Lending Library— We have the best collection of reading materials for adult new readers in all of Salt Lake and Davis Counties. This lending library contains many high interest/low level books and learning materials written for adults. Learners are encouraged to check out books at their independent level to read at home. Books are sorted by reading level to make it easier to select books at an independent level for home practice. This library also contains many support materials for volunteer tutors. All library books and materials may be accessed in person or via the mail.

Naming Study—This study examines the difference between what learners can say (decode) and what they can identify. Since July 2008, this data is collected from all enrollees. Information is used to inform teaching strategies.

Phonics Study—This study is delivered in three ways: 1) some participants work on Reading Horizons software, 2) some participants learn the decoding skills presented in the Reading Horizons software through class instruction, and 3) some participants get the instruction from both formats. We have been collecting data for this study since August 2008.

PowerPath® Screening—Some enrollees complete this screening tool, too. PowerPath® was designed, specifically for adults who are reading below a seventh grade level, for the sole purpose of proposing a list of accommodations or generic instructional strategies that might make learning easier for the adult learner. However, we have incorporated the list of accommodations in our methodology and Tutor Training.

Quarterly goal meetings—Quarterly, learners, tutors, and the professional staff meet to examine goal attainment. Goals are identified and prioritized. Specific activities, instructional methods, and instructional materials that support the achievement of these goals are spelled out on a planning form. Most importantly, these goals are written to meet the criteria of a S.M.A.R.T. goal (specific, measurable, attainable, relevant, and timely). Review dates are also set at these meetings. Everyone gets a copy of the plan.

Scotopic Sensitivity Syndrome (SSS)—We do a quick screen for Scotopic Sensitivity Syndrome (a.k.a. SSS). This condition results in the print moving on the learner as he reads. One learner describes print as “ants marching across the page.” For many of our adults, no one has ever asked this question: Does the print move on you? These adults have just assumed that their glasses were not correctly fitted. Their eyes fatigue so quickly when looking at print that they have given up. Using one of Irlen’s color overlays often dramatically increases the time they can spend looking at print, allowing them time to actually practice reading. (More in-depth screenings are conducted by U Can Learn for a separate fee.)

Speechcraft Discussion group (Toastmasters®)—This group works on the skill of talking to friends or strangers without the fear of being tongue-tied. This group also speaks at conferences, on panels, and to educators about how to best help adults who have literacy issues.

Special Projects—Enrollees are given opportunities to participate in special projects that engage them in using their literacy skills. For example, learners and tutors contributed to the making of a video that highlights the strategies and tools that were helping them learn best in 2007. This video was shared with conference attendees at the November 2007 ProLiteracy Conference as well as tutors and other learners at the Literacy Action Center. In 2007, enrollees wrote to congressional delegates based on political issues that concerned them. These letters were hand-delivered to our congressmen in Washington, DC.

Success Wall—Enrollees’ celebrate their successes by posting them on the Success Wall in the Literacy Action Center’s classroom. Enrollees who are tutored elsewhere (or their tutors) submit their successes to the Literacy Action Center to be posted for them. These successes are used to compile the annual Recognition Dinner program in April of every year.

Top 10 Readers’ Club—Learners are encouraged to regularly submit their “Books Read” list to the Literacy Action Center office. Lists contain the book titles and dates readings were completed. When the Literacy Action Center office receives notification that a learner has read ten books, the learner is enrolled in this club. Enrollment includes a congratulatory note and bookmark at the time of accomplishment and a certificate at the next Recognition Dinner.

Web—The Literacy Action Center web site provides resources and materials to enrollees and the volunteers, plus much more.

Workplace literacy courses—We deliver literacy instruction to employees at local worksites. Last year, for instance, we taught a dozen custodians at a local university at their job site.

Work-related literacy courses—We teach work-related literacy to adults at our site. Currently, we are teaching 2 employees from 2 different companies at our site—one is focusing on math (basic math facts for his warehousing job) and one is focusing on spelling (for an advancement to a shift leader).

Writing group—Mentors from the Salt Lake Community College Community Writing Center (SLCC CWC) (210 East 400 South, Salt Lake City UT 84111 or work with our adults twice a month to develop their writing skills. Twice a year, the participants in this group read their polished stories before live audiences and get these stories published in a book.

Literacy Action Center - 3595 South Main Street, Salt Lake City, UT 84115-4434
Phone: (801) 265-9081 Fax: (801) 265-9643  E-mail:

No person shall be denied services because of race, religion, color, sex, disability, age, or national origin.