Reading for Better Business

READING FOR BETTER BUSINESS is an outreach project to inform employers about Literacy Volunteer’s tutoring for adults.   The goal is to improve the literacy skills of low-literate workers in Bath- Brunswick-Topsham area by providing free, individual tutoring.

What effect does poor literacy have in the workplace? 

For the employee, poor literacy may mean low pay, limited job mobility, and lack of opportunity for promotion.  Employees with very low-level reading and writing skills earn far less than employees with even moderate literacy skills.   People who speak English as a second language may have difficulty reading and writing in English even when they are moderately or highly literate in their primary language.   Their limited English speaking and writing ability may also mean low pay and few job opportunities.

For the employer, poor literacy or limited literacy in English means a limited workforce that may hinder expansion or quality improvement. Employees with low-literacy levels require more time spent on supervision.    Studies of workplace literacy programs in the U.S. find that employers benefited with improved productivity and retention, decreased errors, increased communication, and increased employee confidence.   A recent National Governors Association report estimates that deficits in basic literacy skills cost as much as $16 billion annually in lost productivity and remedial costs.

How can I tell if an employee has poor literacy skills? 

Adults with difficulty reading and writing may find many ways to cover for it.  Often neither employer nor their friends are aware of the individual’s lack of basic literacy skills.  For an employee who’s job does not involve reading manuals, documents, or other work-related materials, or writing memos or filling out forms, a lack of literacy skills may not be evident.  However, can they read the safety notices posted on the job?   Can they read a label on cleaning supplies used at work?  If part of a team, do they defer to other to complete paper work?   Employees may have valuable technical or craft skills, but are not promoted due to their inability to read and write.   It is important to remember that the lack of literacy skills does not mean that a person is stupid or unable to learn new skills; however, valued employee may become more valuable with improved literacy skills.
In the hiring and interview process:  Is there a cover letter with the completed application?   Did they complete the application (whether on-line or on paper) in the office or take it home and return it?  Can they sit in your office and write a short paragraph about their goals or work-experience, etc.?

What can READING FOR BETTER BUSINESS do for my business?

Volunteers from the Reading for Better Business Project will provide suggestions for reaching the employees in your business that may benefit from individual tutoring.    If you are a large employer we can develop an on-site program that will work with the employees your employees whom your HR staff identifies,  or  we can offer suggestions to encourage employees to refer themselves directly to Literacy Volunteers.   For small employers, we will help you develop pay-check inserts or other mechanisms to inform your staff about the availability of free tutoring.

Who are the tutors and how do they work?

About Tutoring

Tutors are all volunteers who are committed to meet with the adult learner at least one hour each week. The time and location is agreed upon by the tutor and adult learner, as well as the employer if tutoring takes place at the worksite. Generally tutoring takes place at the community library.  Workbooks and other materials are provided by Tri-County Literacy Volunteers.

 After the initial literacy assessment by the Tri-County Literacy Program Coordinator, the tutor and adult learner decide on  specific goals that they will work on in their sessions. These goals are based on the adult learners literacy level and their desire or need to achieve particular objectives such as reading safety instruction, writing skills, getting a driver’s license, or taking the exam for a GED.   The tutoring goals and results are confidential between the tutor and adult learner; however, the learner/employee may choose to share this information with his or her employer.  All files on adult learners of Tri-County Literacy Volunteers are strictly private.

About Our Tutors

• All tutors complete an 18-hours training course on teaching Adult Basic English, and many take an additional 4 hours course on teaching English as another language (ESOL).
• Approximately half of our tutors are retired.  One third are employed,  and the others are not in the labor market.
• Half of our tutors have graduate degrees, many of these in Education.  Nearly all have an undergraduate degree or some college education.
Emmy Kappler, Program Coordinator
(207) 443-6384
[email protected]