Youth literacy success story: Izzy and Neomi

This is the success story of the Youth Literacy Program student Izzy told by her mother Neomi. Neomi came to the Youth Literacy Program when Izzy was diagnosed with a learning difference at the age of 7.

Youth Literacy improves the academic achievement of children and teens from low-income families who struggle with literacy skills.  The project trains tutors who provide free, one-on-one instruction in reading, writing, and spelling.  This program serves approximately 50 students per year. 

Are you interested in becoming a tutor? Youth Literacy tutors work with children from low-income families who read, write, and/or spell below grade level. Tutors in this program complete an initial orientation and a 15-hour training.

They then receive follow-up support and the option to attend in-service trainings throughout their tutoring commitment. Tutors in this program work with their students twice per week for 50 minutes each session. Youth Literacy tutors commit to working with their students for at least one school year.

Youth Literacy tutors receive 15 hours of training in research-based reading instruction, which incorporates phonemic awareness, phonics, vocabulary, fluency, comprehension, spelling & written expression. The training is Orton-Gillingham-based, emphasizing the importance of direct instruction, engaging all the senses in learning, and presenting information in a structured, sequential format targeting the student’s individual needs. Wilson Reading System® materials guide the lesson planning process.

Thanks, Neomi, for sharing Izzy’s youth literacy success story and for encouraging people to volunteer!




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ESOL success story: Eleven of our students have become US citizens so far this year!


Some of Literacy Together’s adult learners are eligible to apply for US citizenship One of the many ways their tutors can support them is by helping them prepare for the naturalization exam, which tests their English proficiency in listening, speaking, reading, and writing, as well as their knowledge of US history and civics. Each year we have around thirty students studying for the exam, and in the course of a given year, about ten of them will be scheduled to take the test. Eleven of our students have become US citizens so far this year! Congratulations to all of them! Here is Carmen, who talks a little bit about her ESOL success story in the video below.


Would you like to become an ESOL tutor to support a neighbor who wants to become a US citizen and write their own success story?

The English for Speakers of Other Languages (ESOL) program teaches oral English, reading, and writing to adults who have immigrated to the U.S. from around the world. ESOL is the largest program at Literacy Together, serving approximately 250 students annually. Our students’ most common goals in learning English are to improve their employment prospects, help their children in school, and pass the U.S. Naturalization exam.

Each student works with a trained volunteer tutor, either individually or in a small group of up to ten people. Tutoring takes place for two hours each week at times and locations that are mutually convenient for students and tutors. Tutors may choose to teach one (1) two-hour session or two (2) one-hour sessions each week and may do so online or in person.

ESOL students with a short-term goal of becoming United States citizens may choose to receive citizenship-specific tutoring and learning materials in the ESOL program. This curriculum focuses on U.S. history and civics, as well as the rights and responsibilities of citizenship and civic participation. One hundred percent of students who received citizenship tutoring from Literacy Together and took the U.S. Naturalization Exam have passed it! 


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Two approaches to family literacy

In Literacy Together’s strategic plan for 2020-2025, one of the new areas we identified for possible expansion of services was family literacy – which can take a variety of forms but has as its core component the involvement of both children and parents in literacy activities.
One way we’ve begun to implement this is through a partnership with the Verner Center for Early Learning, a local Early Head Start and pre-K program that provides both on-site and home-based literacy services to children, many of whose parents are immigrants. We have trained several of their teaching staff as ESOL instructors, and they’re now providing free English classes to parents of the children served by Verner. 

Another novel approach has evolved more organically and consists of Taylor and Becky, two members of one family tutoring three members of another family. This is their family literacy story.

Taylor had just moved back to Buncombe County when he came to one of our online volunteer orientation meetings in December. He had traveled in many Spanish-speaking countries,  he had taught English before, and he had the desire to bring his expertise to our community. After finishing his training he was matched with  Lázaro, “a student who is wonderful, he’s very engaged, he’s very excited to learn.”  

During their first lesson together, Lázaro asked him if he could speak with his wife for a moment, and that’s how Taylor met Gloria, who had been on the ESOL waiting list for some time. Gloria asked Taylor if he’d be willing to teach her. “Absolutely,” was his answer and, since then, he’s been teaching the couple separately, meeting each one of them once a week for two hours.  

Gigi, the daughter of Lázaro and Gloria, is a charismatic fourth-grader who would often join her parents’ classes to help them. Taylor’s mom, Becky, is a Title 1 Reading Teacher at a local elementary school, and she was thrilled when her son asked her if she would be willing to help Gigi with her reading and her English. She meets with Gigi twice a week for 30 minutes.  Watch the video to learn more about how this family is supporting another family and how their connection is blossoming!


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Volunteer tutors make the world a better place!



“Volunteering is the ultimate exercise in democracy. You vote in elections when they arise, but when you volunteer, you vote every day about the kind of community you want to live in.” Anonymous


Literacy Together is celebrating our 35th year of transforming lives and communities through the power of literacy.  Our work is accomplished by, through, and with the commitment and dedication of our volunteer tutors.  Throughout the year, volunteers touch the lives of children who struggle to read; provide encouragement to adults with the courage to overcome the barrier of low literacy, and work alongside immigrants motivated to learn the language of their new community. It requires technical skills, patience, persistence, a sense of humor, and the desire to be of service. 

We currently have more than 220 volunteers who have been willing to continue their work throughout the pandemic by being creative with the use of Zoom, Google Meet, WhatsApp, Skype, and even plain old phone calls. 

So, during this National Volunteer Month – but also every day throughout the year – we say THANKS to each and every one of you!!!

A special thanks to ten amazing individuals who have volunteered for Literacy Together for ten years or more. (I apologize in advance if any names are missing from this list—-please let us know who you are):

Dian Leeper—2004

Anne Dachowski—2005

Mary Sugeir—2006

Katie Winchell—2006

Marianne Newman—2008

Linda Kane—2010

Kathryn Kowal—2011

Linda Van Tuyl—2011

Jim McGlinn—2011 

Martha Woolverton—2011

We honor your contribution to making the world a better place.  And we look forward to continuing our work together in the future.

With gratitude,

Cindy Threlkeld

Executive Director

Do you want to be one of our amazing volunteer tutors? Click here!

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Dolly Parton’s Imagination Library is now shipping books to over 4,300 children!

The program mails a new, free, age-appropriate book to registered children each month until they turn five years old. Dolly Parton’s Imagination Library creates a home library of up to 60 books and instills a love of books and reading from an early age. 

Here are two of our favorite testimonials.

Thank you guys for sending us a book a month. It’s been especially difficult with the pandemic to afford new books or get out to the library or bookstore to get books with a toddler. We appreciate our monthly book so much!”
Kristina O., DPIL parent
Evelyn (age 5) recently graduated from DPIL. She sent us this beautiful drawing of her with one of her books as a thank you note!
I love my books, they make me happy to get them every month! My big brother and my mommy and daddy read them to me. I liked getting the books in the mail.”


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