Volunteer Tutors

Explore what being a literacy volunteer is all about.

What do tutors do?

Tutors work either one-to-one (Central and Oak View) or in small groups (Oak View) to help learners meet literacy goals. Weekly sessions last from 1.5 to 2 hours. Tutors discuss learner goals and use those goals to plan, choose materials, and structure lessons. Learner goals could be anything from learning to read and respond to emails for work, to being able to read aloud to a child, to improving writing skills, to being able to earn a GED, to being able to communicate with children’s teachers or with a manager or clients on the job. Materials and approaches will depend on the specific goals of the learner.

The Tutor-Learner Team

The tutor/learner relationship is the core of the Literacy program. Tutoring on a one-to-one basis or in a small group can result in the necessary breakthroughs which open doors to increased ability for learners to function more effectively in their daily lives, improve self-confidence, and achieve their goals. It is important to remember that literacy services are confidential. Some learners have not told family, friends, or their employer that they struggle with reading and writing.

Tutoring Philosophy

Tutoring is:

  • student centered – meaning that lessons are planned around the goals of learners and relate to their individual needs and interests.
  • goal oriented – meaning that the learner’s goals inform the content, techniques, and materials used in tutoring sessions.
  • context based – meaning that real life materials are used in sessions and could include restaurant menus, children’s homework, school flyers, job applications, newspapers, magazines, job manuals, bills, and more.

Tutor Stories

California State Library Literacy Services (CLLS) offers a wealth of information for learners, tutors and programs. Watch these videos highlighting volunteer experience with library literacy programs: Don’t let nervousness be a barrier and You don’t have to be a teacher to be a tutor. Go to the CLLS website to view additional CLLS Tutor Stories and head to the CLLS Tutoring and Tutor Training page to access the wide range training resources for literacy volunteers available for library based literacy programs around the state.


Answer the following questions and email your answers to us using the form below.

  1. What qualities and strengths do you bring to tutoring? What do you think will be the most challenging for you?
  2. Recall a good learning experience you have had and the instructor who positively influenced you. Reflect on the characteristics of that teacher and make a list of the qualities that made this person an effective teacher.

Adult Learners Module

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