The story of the Tacoma Area Literacy Council (TALC) began in 1967. Two Tacoma women attended a class by Dr. Frank Laubach, the literacy expert famous for the “Each One Teach One” method, and became so inspired by Laubach’s international success that they established the Tacoma Area Literary Council in early 1968.

Since then, TALC has been operating as an all-volunteer, privately supported, adult literacy organization. A member of the ProLiteracy Education Network, TALC is on the cusp of celebrating their 50th anniversary, and is launching their new slogan, “Literacy is Golden,” to further their mission of increasing adult literacy and creating even more awareness of their life-changing program.

The “Each One Teach One” method is just as simple as it sounds. After completing a Training Workshop, each volunteer tutor is matched with an adult learner. Each pair sets their own schedules and locations. Ruth Anderson, TALC tutor and former chairman, says, “Each One Teach One simply requires a knowledge of our language, a love of reading, and the willingness to donate two to four hours a week sharing your ability with another adult.”

Tacoma Area Literary Council
The “Each One Teach One” method encourages friendships outside the classroom. Photo courtesy: TALC

Those interested in becoming tutors must be at least 18 years old and have a high school diploma or GED. TALC is always looking for those who have compassion, patience, a sense of humor, sensitivity to other cultures, and at least a six-month commitment to their student. No prior teaching experience is necessary. There is a $30 registration fee, which helps cover costs of learning materials and dues to the ProLiteracy organization. Training workshops are held twice a year at the Community of Christ Church in University Place. Prospective tutors waiting for the next workshop are encouraged to attend the monthly meetings (January-May; September-November) held on the fourth Tuesday at 10:30 a.m. to get a better feel for how the whole process works.

The Tacoma Area Literary Council’s student base covers a wide array of circumstances, whether it be GED preparation, a US citizenship exam, obtaining a driver’s license, English as a second language, or just to improve basic reading, writing, and math skills. “Basic students who have been held back career-wise or who have not been able to help their chi

Training workshops typically run three days before tutors are matched with students. Photo courtesy: TALC

“The key is that the student has to want to learn,” says current chair Sandra Campbell. “I can only be the conduit.  Since our students come to us voluntarily, they are usually willing and eager to learn as much as possible as quickly as possible.”

Tutor Mary Brown agrees. “Currently two of my ESOL students are preparing to take their citizenship tests,” she says. “I’m confident both women know more about US geography and history than many of their native-born neighbors. They frequently quiz me about the Bill of Rights and the other Constitutional amendments and are keen observers of the current political scene. Another student is working on a graduate degree in healthcare technology at the University of Washington, and I predict he will someday help to streamline the US healthcare system.”

As with every volunteer-driven, non-profit organization, participation is everything. “The future of TALC and other volunteer organizations depends on a spirit of volunteerism,” Campbell explains. “In our busy everyday life it is easy to assume that the needs of people are being met through government programs, so I think it is harder to find volunteers in many organizations. In fact, we need volunteers more than ever in our society because government cannot fill every need of its citizenry.”

Tacoma Literary Council
TALC has special classes spanning from naturalization exams to GED certification. Photo courtesy: TALC

“It’s impossible for me to express how much I treasure my experiences as a volunteer tutor!” says Brown. “I’ve been tutoring adults for more than 40 years, more than 10 of them with Tacoma Area Literacy Council. Like my TALC colleagues, I am convinced that my students have contributed far more to my life and to the life of my family than I have contributed to theirs. We tutors are humbled by the effort our adult learners put into improving their literacy, and the recognition of how hard they work encourages us to be even more effective tutors. We and our students learn and laugh together and often form life-long friendships.”

Volunteer applications are available on their website. TALC emphasizes that if you don’t have time to be a tutor, other volunteer opportunities are also available.

Tacoma Area Literacy Council
PO Box 7210
Tacoma, WA 98417-0219

Workshops are held at biannually at:
Community of Christ Church
6912 40th Street W
University Place, WA 98466

Print Friendly, PDF & Email