Volunteer literacy tutors wanted!

1 Sep 2008

The increase in adults participating in literacy courses comes a year after An Post sponsored and launched a major TV, radio and cinema public awareness campaign called ‘Take the first step’. The advertisements profile three individuals who have overcome their difficulties with reading, writing and working with numbers and were intended to encourage people with literacy difficulties to make contact with service providers by ringing the NALA’s freephone 1800 20 20 65. The campaign has been such a huge success that An Post has agreed to broadcast the adverts for another year.

The increase in adults participating in literacy courses comes a year after An Post sponsored and launched a major TV, radio and cinema public awareness campaign called ‘Take the first step’. The advertisements profile three individuals who have overcome their difficulties with reading, writing and working with numbers and were intended to encourage people with literacy difficulties to make contact with service providers by ringing the NALA’s freephone 1800 20 20 65. The campaign has been such a huge success that An Post has agreed to broadcast the adverts for another year. Only last night (Thursday) An Post was awarded the Chambers Ireland Special President’s Award for Literacy Related Programmes, specifically for this work. Currently there are 45,000 people attending VEC adult literacy services, a 10% increase on the previous 12 month period.

Since the An Post developed and sponsored tv and radio adverts started airing, many Adult Literacy Organisers (ALOs) around the country have noticed an increase in what they would define as ‘hard to reach’ adults and early school leavers. More young men are coming forward with clearly defined goals - for example, wanting to complete the Junior and Leaving Certificate, and possibly enrol in 3rd level education. Several ALOs said the advertising campaign has helped reduce the stigma and embarrassment associated with low literacy skills. Recently the motivation for people returning to education is mostly work related as writing difficulties are stopping them for applying for promotion, job training or changing jobs. One ALO cited a case where a young women enrolled in a literacy course having lost her job because she had spelling difficulties.

Ms Inez Bailey, Director, National Adult Literacy Agency, said, ‘In the last year NALA has received a record amount of calls to our freephone from adults who want help with reading, writing and numeracy. Now more than ever we need volunteer literacy tutors to help with this demand. Currently there are 4,000 volunteer tutors providing on average two hours tuition a week. While it requires some initial training, it is very rewarding work. I recently heard that a literacy service had just enrolled an 83 year old student in one-to-one literacy tuition. Fortunately they were able to match the new student with a 72 year old volunteer tutor – it just shows you that you are never too old to learn or tutor!’

An Post Chief Executive, Donal Connell said that the campaign is all about helping people of all ages to reach their full potential by overcoming their difficulties with letters and numbers:

“We put the time and resources into working with NALA to get these ads right. It’s so rewarding to see the results. But literacy programmes also needs volunteer tutors and many of our An Post staff have signed up to train as tutors in their own areas. We work every day at the very heart of Irish communities, and we know the importance of helping people through their litercy difficulties and the difference it makes to men and women of all ages and their families. I encourage everyone to get involved in what is worthwhile, satisfying and enjoyable work that makes a real difference to the community.”

According to the last international survey about half a million Irish adults have problems with basic reading, writing and maths.

Anyone who would like to find out more about becoming a literacy tutor should ring NALA on freephone 1800 20 20 65 for a free information pack.

For media queries please contact:
Clare McNally, National Adult Literacy Agency, 01 8509109 / 087 6486292.
Anna McHugh, An Post, (01) 705 8832 / 086 2350697