How You Can Help
Become a Volunteer

Make a Donation

The Need for Volunteers

The need for literacy and English language instruction continues to grow. One out of every five American adults is functionally illiterate, with reading skills below the eighth grade level. In Northern Virginia alone 130,000 adults function at the lowest literacy level. Many of these individuals cannot read well enough to fill out a job application, read to their children, or understand the label on a medicine bottle. One in every seven area adults is foreign-born and 60 percent of this population is not proficient in English.

At any given time we have 100-150 students on our waiting list for tutors. You can help by serving as a tutor or in one of the other volunteer capacities listed below. By becoming a volunteer, you can open a new world for an adult learner. 

Volunteer Opportunities

- Basic Literacy Tutors work one-to-one with adults who are learning to read and write English. English as a Second Language Tutors work one-to-one with adults who are learning to read, speak and understand English and want to develop basic survival skills. Following a training workshop, tutors in both programs are matched with a student. They meet in the community for a couple of hours each week. The schedule is flexible. No teaching or foreign language experience is required. Ongoing support and training are provided. Click here to see the upcoming Basic Literacy and ESL Tutor workshop schedule.

- ESL Computer Lab Aides provide assistance to students working with software that teaches English. Training is provided. No teaching or foreign language experience is required. The schedule is flexible, but a minimum commitment of a two-hour time slot is requested. ESL Computer Labs are located in Alexandria and Falls Church. Click here to view current computer lab hours.

- ESL Class Aides work with small groups of adult students under the supervision of an experienced instructor to help them develop basic English skills. Training and materials are provided. No teaching or foreign language experience is required. Classes are located in Alexandria, Arlington, Culmore, Falls Church, and Springfield. Click here to view class locations and times.

- Family Learning Program Volunteers work as an adult ESL class aides, adult literacy tutors, children's homework helpers, preschool instructional volunteers, or computer instructional aides. Volunteers are needed at our locations in Herndon, Falls Church, Bailey's Crossroads, Springfield and Fairfax.

- By becoming a Special/One Time Projects Volunteer, you or a group (civic associations, corporate groups, church groups) can help by providing extra volunteer assistance for fundraisers, fairs, book sales, and other activities. We are currently looking for volunteers to help with our gift wrapping fundraiser at Borders in Pentagon City (Nov. 29 - Dec. 24) and Barnes and Noble in Seven Corners (Dec. 13 - 15)

-The Council is always looking for Office Volunteers to help with a variety of tasks including: filing, sorting, data entry, and telephone calling. The schedule is flexible and no computer experience is necessary.

Still not sure which volunteer opportunity is right for you. We invite you to attend an optional volunteer orientation to help with your decision. Click here to view the schedule of upcoming orientations. 


Frequently Asked Questions

Why should I tutor?
You can brighten someone's life by sharing the gift of literacy. Reading, writing, and speaking are integral to everyday life. Helping those in our community develop these abilities allows them to lead more effective, productive, and enjoyable lives.

Who am I going to be tutoring?
The Literacy Council serves adults who can not read. There are two separate programs, Basic Literacy and ESL. Basic Literacy students are American-born adults who read at or below the fifth grade level or foreign-born adults who can understand English well be can not read or write it. The ESL Program serves foreign-born adults who need to learn basic English.

What is required to be a tutor?
Tutors must be at least 18 years old and have a minimum of a high school diploma.

How many hours should I tutor each week?
Tutors typically meet with their students once or twice a week for a total of about 11/2 to 3 hours.

How long am I expected to tutor?
We ask tutors to commit for 9 to 12 months. It often takes students that long to make meaningful progress in their studies.

Do I need previous teaching experience?
No, the Literacy Council provides training workshops.

What training is involved?
Tutors are required to take a training workshop. The Basic Program involves a 12 hour workshop held on three consecutive Saturdays. The ESL Program requires an 16-hour workshop, held in 4 sessions, on Wednesday evenings and Saturdays. The workshops cover issues such as working with an adult learner and/or language learner, dealing with different curriculums, preparing lesson plans, and anticipating and addressing obstacles. You'll also learn about the resources available to you through the Council.

Is there a cost for the training?
We request a $35 tax-deductible donation to help defray the cost of workshop books, materials, and other expenses. If this presents a hardship, ask us about scholarships opportunities.

Where does the tutoring take place?
The tutor and student decide when and where the tutoring take place. We have a list of over 70 area locations that have space available for tutoring sessions. Common meeting places include libraries, churches, and community centers.

If I take the training, must I tutor?
No, we train many tutors who already have their own student or someone in mind who they wish to tutor. 

Do I need to know a foreign language to tutor?
No. The training workshop prepares you to work with a student with whom you do not share a common language.

What if I need to travel or miss some tutoring sessions?
If you have scheduling conflicts, we just ask that you notify your student in advance.

What resources are available to assist with my tutoring?
The Basic Literacy and ESL Program Coordinators are available to answer questions and address concerns on an on-going basis. You can also talk with you placement advisor or workshop trainer. The Council offers periodic in-service workshops to develop additional skills. Our library has a variety of  resource materials and our web site has links to a range of on-line resources, including sample lesson plans and ideas/activities to enhance your lessons.

How do I track my student's progress?
We ask that you keep your Program Coordinator informed of the progress and status of your tutoring through quarterly reports. These reports are mailed to tutors prior to the end of each quarter and take approximately 10 minutes to complete.

How do you match tutors and students?
Both tutors and students are asked to express any preferences they have regarding their match. Matches are based primarily on geographic location and time availability.

Do I need to take a training workshop to bean ESL class aide?
No. However,  it is recommended.

How do students find out about the Literacy Council?
To recruit ESL students, we rely on foreign language media and word of mouth. Basic Literacy students often hear about us through social service agencies or a concerned friend.

Contact us to become a volunteer:

Please contact us for more information on our volunteer opportunities. Please email or call us with your mailing address so we can send you an information packet. In addition to your address please let us know how you heard about the Literacy Council. This will allow us to track the success of our various outreach efforts.

E-mail: [email protected]

Phone: (703) 575-7900

Mail: Literacy Council of Northern Virginia
        3431 Carlin Springs Road
        Falls Church, VA 22041

Make a Donation

The Need

The demand for literacy and ESL instruction continues to grow. We need your assistance now more than ever. By making a tax deductible donation, you can help the Literacy Council reach more students or provide educational materials for those already enrolled. An investment in the Literacy Council is a good one: last year only 6 percent of funds went toward administrative and fundraising costs, the remainder went toward program expenses.  We estimate that every dollar contributed to the Literacy Council is tripled in value by volunteer services.

Make a Donation On-Line 

Online contributions can be made at 

You can also mail your donation directly to the Council at:

Literacy Council of Northern Virginia
3431 Carlin Springs Road
Falls Church, VA 22041

Gifts of Stocks, Bonds and Mutual Funds

Gifts of securities such as stocks, bonds, and mutual funds are advantageous if you hold a security such as a stock that has increased in value since you acquired it. By making a gift of stock held longer than one year, you avoid paying capital gains tax. In addition, you can receive an income tax deduction for the current market value of the gift.

Please contact the Council's Executive Director, Patricia Donnelly at (703)575-7900, ext. 102 for more information on how to donate stocks, bonds or mutual funds to the Council. 

Estate and Gift Planning for the Future

There are many advantages to estate and gift planning for the future. By providing a planned gift to a designated charity you can provide your self with an income tax deduction. Depending on your circumstances, you can arrange for increased income for your family, capital gains tax avoidance, tax free income, estate tax savings, and a hedge against inflation. 

The Literacy Council has information and resources available to help you take advantage of these giving opportunities. With over 90¢ of every dollar going to provide direct program services, your gift to our programs can make a substantial difference in many lives. 

Listed below are a few of the available giving opportunities: 

Charitable gift annuities: pay guaranteed income for life 

Living memorials 

Bequests with double tax savings

Living trusts

Charitable lead trusts: provide savings in gift and estate taxes

Deferred charitable bequests may actually increase income for your survivors.

Please contact Patricia Donnelly at the Literacy Council (703) 237-0866, ext. 102 for more information.

United Way/CFC Campaigns 

You can support the Council by contributing to the following charitable campaigns: United Way, Combined Federal Campaign, or the Fairfax County Combined Charitable Campaign. The Council's designation number is #8356.

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