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Philoptochos Literacy Outreach Program

The Literacy Outreach Program is designed to be an ongoing project that will promote literacy for children and adults through a "hands-on" program appropriate for all Philoptochos chapters.Goals of the Literacy Outreach Program

  • To promote motivation, success and enjoyment of reading and oral communication for school age children.
  • To increase the self-esteem of students participating in the program
  • To offer meaningful volunteer opportunities for Philoptochos members and others within our Greek Orthodox church communities
  • To strengthen the ties between generations by providing opportunities for adult tutors and young children to bond through additional instruction, support and encouragement
Background Information: Why Children's Literacy?

In 2002 President George W. Bush, the United States Department of Education and the United States Congress launched the "No Child Left Behind" Act. Educators around the country have been trying to interpret this directive so that each American child is reading at grade level despite the obstacles of lack of readiness, poverty, geographical locale or family situations.

Every school has children who are challenged readers. These are the children who can benefit most from the additional instruction, support, and encouragement given by tutors. Classroom teachers or trained professionals are best suited to identify and assess "at risk" children; those children in need of additional reading support. Tutors guide children's reading practice and encourage them to improve their reading skills. The role of tutors is to provide practice with oral reading, meaningful discussion on book content, simple reading instruction, and confidence building motivation A succesful tutoring program includes mechanisms to recruit, screen, train, supervise, retain and recognize tutors. The outcome of such a project would be that children will view themselves more positively as a result of the tutoring experience and that adult volunteers will feel satisfied that they have made a significant contribution to the lives of the children they tutor.

Suggestions for Implementation
  1. Appoint a chairman and establish a committee that would 1) research the need for volunteer reading tutors within the community and 2) decide how to best meet those needs.
  2. Contact the local school district(s) that serve your community to find out if programs are in place or can be instituted. How can your chapter get involved?
  3. Recruit/identify members who are willing to be trained and will be committed to working with children one or more hours per week.

Chapter Challenge


Identify caring people within your Philoptochos and church community who would be willing to devote an hour or more each week to help a child become a better reader. It is important that tutors know what is expected of them before they volunteer their time, so be clear about your program when you recruit tutors. It may be helpful to hand out a sheet outlining your expectations. A successful tutoring program depends on recruiting competent, dedicated, and reliable volunteers. Each Philoptochos chapter interested in developing a tutoring program should consult with its local school district office to learn about district policies and programs available.

Tips for Recruiting Tutors
Most Effective Means:
  • Personal invitation and contacts (the more direct the appeal, the more difficult to refuse).
  • Word-of-Mouth - the excitement of those already involved, the enthusiasm of telling others about their role.
Appeal to Specific Motives:
  • People are most likely to volunteer their help if they perceive a strong, helping situation.
    • There is a pressing need: At-risk children need help before it's too late - early intervention is key-we need tutors now.
    • There is no alternative source of help: Adults have the requisite skills, time and ability to help. Alternative sources of help are not available or could not be nearly as effective.
    • There is a likelihood that their help will have a direct and positive impact: This volunteer program can improve students' performance and self- esteem. Results of the volunteer program can be published to show the impact of the volunteer effort - those involved really did make a difference.

Who to Recruit:
  • Those who have volunteered before in other capacities
  • Active people, age is no barrier.
  • People with specific skills (former teachers, school alumni, etc.)
  • Those with a sense of community pride, attachment
  • Caring individuals who share concerns about children and want to make an impact on their lives.   

Requirements for Tutors:

Time:  Tutors need a strong commitment to whatever amount of time their schedules can accommodate.

Commitment:  Follow through is a must to achieve the goals of the program.

Willingness to Learn:  Tutors should be willing to share their skills but also be willing to learn about their local programs.

Sensitivity:  Tutors must be willing to accept the students and their goals and realize that their beliefs and values may be different.  The strengths, skills and learning experiences will vary from child to child, and tutor must be sensitive to that.

Regular / Open Communication:  Tutors need to have regular and open communication with the teachers and/or program directors to make sure that both are aware of progress or problems that may occur.

Affirmation:  Tutors need to affirm the strengths of the children and help them find ways to build on those strengths.


Well-trained tutors are critical to a successful tutoring program. Most importantly, tutors should have a basic understanding of the reading process and be good readers. Training sessions would need to be implemented to familiarize tutors with the materials being used, appropriate interaction with children and various reading practices. Time spent preparing tutors for their experience is key to getting the most out of the tutoring program.


Tutors improve and become more comfortable with increased experience. However, regular supervision, communication and feedback are critical. A successful tutoring program requires the monitoring of tutoring sessions and constructive guidance, encouragement and support of tutors.

For additional information about helping children learn to read, please go to:

•  www.theliteracysite.com

•  www.literacycampus.org

•  www.internationalliteracynetwork.com

•  www.rif.org (Reading is Fundamental)

•  www.literacyusa.com

•  www.earlyliteracyinfo.org

•  www.famlit.org

•  www.reachoutandread.org

•  www.readingrecovery.org

Book Donations

Books stir the senses, inspire the imagination, and spark a love of reading that can last a lifetime. Access to books is essential to reading development, yet many children from low-income families have no books at home or in the childcare centers they attend. Millions of children are waiting for our help. Philoptochos could sponsor a book drive in conjunction with the Youth Ministry of the parish to donate books to less privileged children. Contact school districts to identify low income or high-risk students who would benefit from a donated book. Also see: www.firstbook.org.

Why not start early? Your Philoptochos chapter could purchase children's prayer books and give them as a gift to parents who bring in their babies for the 40-day blessing. Put a date and an inscription in the inside cover for the baby. It will delight the parents and certainly promote positive public relations for Philoptochos. Check the Holy Cross bookstore for appropriate books. www.holycrossbookstore.com

Adult Literacy Outreach

Illiteracy-the inability to fill out an employment application, follow written instructions or read a newspaper-takes a tremendous toll on individuals. Illiterate people rarely finish school, many are incarcerated and a large percentage lacks the basic skills needed to hold a job. Illiteracy costs the nation's industry hundreds of millions of dollars annually in remedial programs for employees, low productivity, errors and accidents, which result from basic-skill deficiencies in workers.

According to the National Council for Literacy, "We must consider the role of adult education in helping adults and families establish long term security in their jobs, lives and communities." Many communities have developed adult literacy programs as an outreach to adult non-readers. Literacy tutoring is one of the most rewarding volunteer experiences an individual can have. When you help someone to learn to read, you enable that individual to take advantage of a new world of opportunities. Philoptochos can become involved in helping local individuals acquire fundamental literacy skills by contacting their local social service agencies, libraries or ProLiteracy America. ProLiteracy America has 1,200 affiliates in all 50 states. Its purpose it to advocate for the needs of adult learners and to provide support to the organizations and agencies that serve them. It provides volunteer tutors with the professional training and materials they need to teach basic literacy. Training takes 15-20 hours and tutors typically meet with their students for one and a half to two hours per week. Literacy organizations need all kinds of help, not just tutors.

Contacts: ProLiteracy Worldwide: www.proliteracy.org

New Readers Press: www.newreaderspress.com

Senior Outreach/Shut-In Programs

Many of our senior citizens/shut-ins would benefit from and enjoy a regular visitor/volunteer who would read newspapers, novels or the Bible to them. Retirement facilities may welcome Philoptochos volunteers who would read on a weekly basis to those incapable of reading for themselves. Contact your local senior citizen centers, assisted living/retirement communities to help.

Adult Book Donations Many senior citizen centers and retirement/assisted living/nursing home facilities welcome book and magazine donations. Philoptochos can organize a book drive within the parish to provide books to these centers and homes.  There are many avenues that this Literacy Project Outreach can take. We would love to hear from you, so please share your ideas with us, in the hopes that...

"Together We Can Make A Difference"