How To Start an Adult Literacy Program

A Resource From the Virginia Adult Learning Resource Center

Posted in Uncategorized by Resource Center on March 19, 2011

stu and tu On this page find the links and resources you will need to start a nonprofit adult literacy program in Virginia, whether it is library-based, community-based, faith-based, or a GED program. Regardless of the type of literacy program you want to start, your first steps will be to recruit a dedicated team of volunteers, form a board of directors, and begin the process of obtaining a 501 (c) 3 status or find a fiscal partner (organization) that has successfully achieved this status.

In the sidebar on the right, find these categories:

Types of Literacy Programs

Depending on what program you would like to offer, these categories will explain in depth the following programs. Each heading is a live link and will lead you to the topic.

  • Community-based Literacy Program: Also known as a CBLO, this program generally targets adults who read at the very lowest levels. Some community-based organizations offer many services and some simply target one kind of service, such as tutoring of foreign language learners. The information in this link will help you set up a general adult literacy program for basic literacy learners.
  • ESOL Program: English for Speakers of Other Languages programs (ESOL) teach adults for whom English is a second language. Specialized knowledge and skills are needed to set up this type of program, including immigration issues and civics education.
  • Faith-based Literacy Program: Like a CBLO, a faith-based program can offer many adult literacy services. Protocol for starting a faith-based program differs slightly in that program staff must work within the church hierarchy and receive special permission.
  • Collaborating with a GED Program: Teaching GED to adults require a more advanced set of skills. Tutors and teachers of these programs must teach towards the exam and collaborate with their testing partners.

Important Links

These links lead to information that is important for all adult literacy groups. Find these links in the sidebar on the right.


These organizations are geared to helping adult education program and staff in all facets of program management, from fund development, to grand writing, to training. Find the organizations in the sidebar on the right.


The links provided in this section will help you to understand the key roles of volunteers, how to recruit them, and how to design the best adult literacy program in your community.

Need more help? Training and Professional Development

In this section find online resources, such as the Online Tutor Training, a self-guided workshop for volunteer tutors designed for adult literacy programs that do not yet have a training team or that are in transition. It is recommended that program staff take the online course before assigning it to volunteer tutors. The Virginia Adult Learning Resource Center also provides many resources on its website. Onsite and online training, however, is available only to VA-DOE or VLF-funded programs.


Contact the Virginia Adult Learning Resource Center at 800-237-0178.