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News & Updates for October 2018

newsThis month:


Thank you, thank you

We're just full of thanks!


Wow, you really helped us celebrate National Literacy Month! Your generosity raised over $25,000 for literacy classes and we're overwhelmingly grateful.

We're also thanking Half Price Books, whose Literacy Benefit Day on September 8 (International Literacy Day) raised more than $20,000 to be split among their literacy partners, including us!

And we're thanking ALL our volunteers, in particular the Family Literacy helpers who came along to our special event with Albury Headstart at the end of September.

You make our hearts sing and our feet dance! Thank you for your support!


Farewell Irene!

And a huge THANK YOU for everything

We'll soon be saying goodbye to someone special - Irene Evans, Development & Board Liaison, will be retiring in mid-November. We know she's looking forward to a lot more time to herself - but we're sad to be saying goodbye after more than 11 years on staff (and before that, as a volunteer tutor).

You know that no one ever FULLY leaves Literacy Advance - so we're sure you'll be seeing Irene around from time to time. 

Thank you for being amazing, Irene! We know you'll keep on being amazing, whatever you decide to do next :)



(And welcome back)

We’ve hired a new Program Coordinator in the Bay Area office! Maribel Vidal joined our team this summer, and we’re excited for you to meet her. She’ll be working part-time in the Bay Area office.

Some of Maribel's shifts will overlap with Enedina, and sometimes they’ll work separately, but both are ready to help whenever you need. AND: Maribel joins the proud alumni of one-time students who have joined the Literacy Advance team after graduating from our classes, which makes us even happier!

reggie banksTuesday tutors at Wilcrest have been seeing a familiar face around the office -  Reggie Banks, a sophomore at Cristo Rey Jesuit Preparatory School of Houston, has returned for his second year as a Corporate Work Study Intern at Literacy Advance. Reggie will be with us most Tuesdays and some Fridays throughout the school year, so if you see him, please say hello!


politics in the classroom

Keeping Literacy Advance a neutral space

votePlease keep partisan politics and opinions out of the classroom.

We love that tutors are discussing relevant topics in their classes such as the importance of voting – but we need all of you to keep Literacy Advance a non-partisan space.

Please keep any discussions of candidates, policies, or parties neutral.

It's crucial that Literacy Advance remains a safe and welcoming space for EVERYONE. Thank you!


Around the World

It's been ten whole years!

around the worldMany of you have been to Around the World before - this magical evening brings together students, volunteers, and other friends of Literacy Advance in a glorious celebration of food, community, and love.

This year will be our TENTH such celebration, if you can believe it, and you're invited!

Friday, October 19, 5pm - 7pm

Mark the date and plan to join us! Guests are welcome (14 years old or older, please). Volunteers come as the guests of the students, who celebrate their home countries and cultures through food.

We hope to see you - it won't be the same without you!


Tutor Roundtable

More from students, less from teachers

roundtableThis month's Top Tutor Tips focus on the reality that as a tutor, you should be speaking for a maximum of 2 minutes out of every 12 minutes in your classroom (the students should be speaking for the other 10). We know that's a challenge, so we want to help give you the tools to make this good learning practice happen in your classes!

Our next tutor roundtable focuses on this very topic.

When? Saturday, October 27 
What time? 10 am – 12 pm
Where? Wilcrest Conference Room

Join us to share your thoughts, as your questions, and learn from other tutors in small group discussion. All ABE and ESL tutors are welcome!

Sign up on the Wilcrest Resource Room door or get in touch with Courtney:


Fall semester officially underway

We're in the home stretch...

All regular ESL classes for the fall semester started by the end of September, and we’re thrilled to see so many classes at full capacity. THANK YOU for being here and making this semester the most active we’ve seen this year.

Next month, we’ll start sharing our biggest needs for the spring and coordinating your next class. And there are always short-term volunteer opportunities, and our ongoing need for subs...

Stay tuned!


Alley $10 Tix

A Christmas Carol - benefiting Literacy Advance!

The Alley Theater's $10 Tix program rewards patrons who bring a specified item for a designated charity with the opportunity to purchase up to two tickets for a minimum of $10 each on a designated Sunday preview performance.

And the Alley Theater has invited Literacy Advance to be part of this great program!

Performance: A Christmas Carol
Designated date: Sunday, November 18
Specified item: A new children's book or ream of white office paper

Tickets only available in person at the box office on November 18 from 11am to curtain time. $10 Tix seats are located in section B and subject to availability. Cash or check only at time of purchase.

THANK YOU to the Alley Theater for their support!


Bad weather? Not sure if class is on?

Step One: Check Facebook

We know that weather in Houston can be unpredictable. Sometimes we don't have a lot of notice that we'll need to close the office and cancel classes, and we don't always have time to call everyone. 

Facebook is a quick and easy way to update lots of people at once, so the Literacy Advance Facebook page always has the most up-to-date information about closings in cases of bad weather.

If you think there's a chance we might be closed, please check the page rather than calling the office. Look for this image, and click on it for the latest update:

weather information

You can check the Facebook page even if you don't have a Facebook account, so please bookmark the link above. And remind your students to do the same!

Of course, if the bad weather is local to your neighborhood, and you're the one who needs to cancel class because you're concerned about driving, please do call us and let us know.


Theme of the Month

October: Health

float: left; padding-right: 10pxIn October (Health Literacy Month), we're focusing on Health.

Even if English is your first language, you know that conversations related to health are not easy. Things like talking to a child's doctor, picking up prescriptions, or learning about health insurance require specific language that can be difficult. We have resources ready for you to start making students more confident in these situations.

We love Oxford Picture Dictionary for its lesson plans and multi-level activities, and it has an entire section on health! Beginner and intermediate level students can learn or reinforce vocabulary necessary to many health-related scenarios.

The Health Stories series presents opportunities to practice important conversations in a fun, realistic way. Three levels with textbooks, workbooks, CDs, and a teacher guide make this a very comprehensive series. Alternatively, Staying Healthy helps students learn important health insurance terms that are key to finding and using health insurance in the United States.

Navigating new systems of healthcare alongside learning a new language is an ongoing process. We want to make sure students get all the tools and resources they need to stay healthy, continue learning, and support their families.

Stop by the Resource Room at your site to browse options for your classroom!

Planning ahead:

Month Theme Possible lesson content
November Libraries What's available at your local library? What does the library provide online?
Theme of the Month on hiatus for December & January
February Taxes Tax deadlines; free services at Neighborhood Tax Centers 
March Houston Livestock Show & Rodeo; Houston roads; special events in the Houston calendar 
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

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 Courtney: 713.266.8777 or


Top Tutor Tips

Getting your students talking

We all know it: Classrooms are most effective when students do the talking. But we also know that this can be challenging to do!

As a tutor, you have knowledge of English that you need to get across to your students and after rounds of your instruction, modeling, repetition, praise, and correction, there isn’t always enough time left for students to practice out loud.

But experience and research confirm that students learn best when tutors speak for only 2 minutes for every 10 minutes the students speak. With practice, you’ll start to recognize when you’re reaching this limit and know when it’s time to turn the focus over to students. 

Read more about the importance of students doing the majority of the talking in the classroom.

How can you improve the student-to-tutor talking ratio in your classroom?Come to our next tutor roundtable, on this exact topic!

Conversations are also active over in our Tutor Support Facebook Group. If you haven’t joined yet, we hope you’ll stop by to see what resources other tutors have shared that work best to maximize student participation in their classrooms.

If you have any questions or comments about the materials or strategies suggested here, contact us at


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.

Literacy Advance fall semester ends December 22

Around the World:
10th annual student & tutor celebration

Friday, October 19

LAST DAY of classes in 2018
Saturday, December 22

FIRST DAY of classes in 2019
Monday, January 14


Find more information just for volunteers:

And finally - don't miss the Volunteer Spotlight!

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