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News & Updates for February 2018

newsThis month:


Thank you, thank you

Sending out love to all our friends and supporters

valentineAs we reflect on the year just past, we can't do anything but conclude that friends of Literacy Advance have simply the biggest hearts in the world.

Do you know that you got 1,400 people into class in 2017? Just stop for a moment and think about those 1,400 people - with 1,400 families - all striving and achieving and moving ahead to bigger and brighter things.

Because of YOU.

Literacy Advance will turn 55 next year. As we look back over decades of dedication, we know that it's volunteers like you who have got us to where we are today. heart

And all we can say is thank you. Our hearts are full!


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.

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.


Tutoring options for the rest of the semester

Spring Semester now underway

THANK YOU to everyone who helped us start the Spring Semester so strongly!

Hundreds of students are already back in class and we're so thankful for a much more standard schedule, after the Fall Semester was disrupted by Harvey.

If you're a tutor, and you're not yet placed with a class for the spring, please contact Maxine ASAP. Time's running out to start a class that will finish before the summer!

But we'll continue to have all sorts of other short-term options, like work-readiness classes, computer classes, and special conversation groups, so keep an eye on our Current Tutor Needs page for other opportunities.


Wilcrest Programs Intern

Welcome Shirley!

We're excited to welcome a new intern to our Programs team.

Shirley Tang is a senior at the Miller Career & Technical Center with Katy ISD and is with us through the PACE program, an internship program available as an honors course for students who have demonstrated outstanding academic achievement.

Shirley is at Wilcrest, on Tuesday and Thursday afternoons, through mid-April. If you're a Wilcrest volunteer, we hope you'll help make her feel welcome!


Top Tutor Tips

Cultivating a Sense of Belonging and Community

An early, important strategy to help adult learners persist and succeed is to cultivate a sense of belonging and community.

Everyone wants to feel welcomed, respected, and part of the group. However, adults bring a lifetime of experiences to class, both good and bad, and they can be very nervous and self-conscious right from the start, which can make learning difficult.

This is one reason we do group Student Registrations and have small-group ESL classes and Reading Practice Group. Tutors, of course, set the tone for community building in classrooms.

Here are some tips to keep in mind:

  • Be on time, and welcome students as they arrive. Look them in the eye and SMILE!
  • Take the time to learn how to pronounce their names correctly, and include introduction activities that allow students to learn one another’s names. See the Learning Styles and Preferences and 60 ESL Lesson Ideas (ESL tutors only) handouts in your Tutor Training packets for tips. 
  • Games are great! Laughter can build strong bonds and help people relax. Check out some of the silly games in the Resource Rooms.
  • Don’t rush through the first few lessons. Getting-to-know-you activities are not only for the first day of class. Take opportunities in every class for students to learn about each other, and discover traits and circumstances they have in common.
  • Having time to really think about WHY you come to class can keep adult learners motivated like nothing else (which is why we focus on goals, and use reflection journals). We'll share more about that strategy next time.

"A sense of belonging and community" is just one of the 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!)


Theme of the Month

February: Taxes

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.

February’s theme is taxes, and students say they want to know about:

  • Types of taxes
  • Filling out forms like W2s and W4s, and
  • Resources where they can get help

For help explaining information about taxes, check out the Internal Revenue Service’s Understanding Taxes Teacher Site. It has downloadable materials, a glossary and resource list, lesson plans, and even self-directed, online modules on the Hows and Whys of Taxes.

For help completing tax returns, please direct students to the wonderful Neighborhood Tax Centers (see information directly below).

Waiting Class tutors, there are tax-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 the Resource Room, or contact Maxine at

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

Month Theme Possible lesson content
March Houston Houston Livestock Show & Rodeo; Houston roads; preparing for Houston's weather...
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


Neighborhood Tax Centers

What a valuable resource for Houston!

We just love BakerRipley's amazing Neighborhood Tax Centers. They put literally MILLIONS of dollars back into the Houston community through their free tax services every year.

Some things to know:

  • There are 11 centers this year, across the city
  • Tax preparation is by IRS-certified preparers
  • Eligibility cut-off is $58,000
  • No appointments; walk-in only
  • Since 2009, BakerRipley’s tax centers have prepared over 288,000 tax returns, putting over $390 million back in the pockets of working families
  • Families save an average of $200 in tax preparation and predatory refund loans fees, amounting to an estimated savings of about $7.5 million per year

Find locations and other info here. Paper copies of this flyer are available now at all Literacy Advance sites, so please spread the word - to students, friends, and family!


Did you miss it? Outreach Update

Doing the same thing, but differently

We've made some shifts for 2018, in response to needs we're seeing among our students and in the community at large.

Find all details here. 


Calendar Highlights

What's ahead? Mark your calendar!

calendar2018 is well underway. And since we always want you to be up to date, highlights of the Literacy Advance calendar are summarized below.

Please get these dates in your calendar now!

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

Monday, February 19
Presidents Day - Literacy Advance OPEN

Sunday, March 11
Daylight Savings begins - clocks go FORWARD one hour

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

Remember to check the full calendar or our Facebook events tab for ongoing information about Literacy Advance events.


Find more information just for volunteers:

And don't miss the Volunteer Spotlight and Student Success Spotlight!

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