The United States Department of Education in 2019 reported that 54% of adults cannot read or write past a third-grade level. Literacy Volunteers is a non-profit organization whose mission is to teach literacy to those adults who lack proficiency in literacy. In summer 2021, between junior and senior years, I had an internship with Literacy Volunteers in New Haven County, CT. In the internship, I received training in literacy tutoring and Lexia (an educational reading platform), and participated in team meetings. I traveled to multiple libraries to promote and increase awareness of the program, recruited tutors and students, and directly delivered the literacy program to community members. Through this community engagement, I learned about how important public libraries are to communities that may neither have computers nor ready internet access. Since libraries offered internet access, they were important hubs to connect Literacy Volunteers to these underserved communities. Through teaching in the community, I realized that literacy, as well as computer skills, were critical in preparing non-readers to apply for opportunities, including employment. Non-readers often feel shame about their illiteracy, shame that escapes literate people, who may take the ability to read for granted. One of my students spoke perfectly but was not able to remember the pronunciation of the written words. Within the context of the COVID-19 pandemic and struggles between politics, public health, and equity; I became aware of how the inability to read and to write is a critical deficit to full access to opportunities. There are still illiterate adults in our country and part of my internship was finding those people, learning their stories, and helping them learn how to read. To this day, I am still deeply involved with Literacy Volunteers by continuing to train for tutoring and to recruit tutors on campus.
Duffy, Christopher E., "Literacy and Access to the Opportunities of Democracy" (2021). Internship Reflection Papers. 2184.
The views expressed in this paper are solely those of the author.