READ Lakeland, Inc. is a nonprofit 501(c)(3) organization dedicated to teaching basic reading and writing skills to adult non readers and to actively engaging in programs and activities to further adult literacy. For all adults with low literacy skills who are willing to put forth the effort to learn, we seek to provide the means to end the tragic cycle of illiteracy and its correlation with unemployment, poverty, and accompanying social ills. READ Lakeland has, on average, a waiting list of 12 adults seeking our services.
Established in 1995 by volunteers as a community based organization to promote adult literacy, READ Lakeland has provided one-to-one and small group tutoring services to hundreds of adults in Lakeland and surrounding areas. We recruit, train, match, and support volunteers who want to tutor adults who want to learn to read, improve math skills, or speak English. Our tutoring services include basic adult literacy; reading, writing, and math support for adults preparing to enter a GED program or take a work certification exam; and English as a Second Language (ESL). All of our services are provided at no charge to our learners. While most of our tutoring is one-to-one, we have small group tutoring in writing skills and English conversation practice. We also provide tutoring as requested by community partners such as West Area Adult School and Talbot House.
During its first ten years READ Lakeland was operated almost entirely by volunteers who not only tutored adult learners but also planned, implemented, and managed every aspect of the organization, including training, program services, community awareness, and fund raising activities. As numbers of learners and tutors grew, a board member wrote a grant that allowed READ Lakeland to hire a part-time tutor-learner coordinator. With the part-time employee, numbers increased, matches were better supported and thus more stable, tutoring materials were inventoried and updated, and record-keeping became more thorough and accurate. Unfortunately, when the funds ran out, contact with tutors and students became inconsistent and often lost, and records disappeared. By that time, the need and requests for services were too great for READ Lakeland to provide them by relying solely on volunteers.
In 2007, still lacking paid staff, board members took on the responsibilities of researching and writing grants; researching, developing, and implementing an annual fund raising campaign (Kiss the Pig for Literacy); and seeking and developing community partnerships. As resources increased, we hired a part-time Tutor/Learner Coordinator (TLC) to assess, match, and support one-to-one tutoring pairs, to improve data collection and data analysis, and to increase accountability. In 2009, we hired a part-time Development Director to focus on increasing resources; and in 2010, the Polk County School Board loaned a full-time secretarial position to READ Lakeland. This position is filled by the Tutor/Learner Coordinator and is projected to end in June 2012. Volunteers who are both board and program-related, continue to fill many essential roles.