A significant proportion of the Irish population has low levels of literacy. This means that tasks like filling in forms, helping their children with their homework or reading the instructions on a medicine bottle are difficult for a large number of people. The Vocational Educational Committee (VEC) runs an adult literacy service which allows people with reading and writing difficulties to gain access to literacy education. The Adult Literacy Organiser (ALO) of the VEC is responsible for managing the delivery of the adult literacy service.
The VEC adult literacy service involves literacy tutors providing tuition to adult students.
Learners and tutors interact on an equal basis in the VEC adult literacy service and classes focus on the needs of the learner as an individual.
The people who attend the VEC adult literacy service come from all walks of life and have different reasons for wanting to improve their reading, writing, spelling and maths, whether it be self-improvement, job advancement or just to helping their children with their homework.
You do not need to have reached a certain standard of education (for example, the Junior or Leaving Certificate) to join. You can use the service for as long as you wish and it is also possible to take a break and rejoin it at a later stage.
Everyone has his or her own trained literacy tutor and, before you start your first class, you will decide together what you would like to cover. Your tutor will then plan each class to suit you. There is no set course and classes are usually around two hours long per week.
It is important to remember that there are people of every age and from every background with low levels of literacy. You have no need to feel embarrassed or anxious and your attendance is confidential. All tutors are specially trained to help you feel at ease and get the most out of your classes.
When you contact the adult literacy service in your local VEC, the person in charge of your local service will invite you to call in to discuss the service and your needs. There is no test or right or wrong answers to questions. After this meeting, the organiser will arrange for a tutor to work with you.
Students and tutors work closely together so it is important that you get on well together. If you are not happy with your tutor, you can talk in confidence to the person in charge of your local service, usually the Adult Literacy Organiser.
You do not need specific educational qualifications or to have worked as a teacher to become an adult literacy tutor as you will be given full training. All that is required of you is a genuine desire to work with adults who have literacy difficulties. If you can read, are a good communicator and are confident in your ability to understand adults with literacy difficulties, then you can help.
If you wish to become a tutor in a VEC adult literacy service, you should contact your local VEC Adult Literacy Organiser for details of initial training courses in your area. You can contact the organiser by phoning your local VEC office or National Adult Literacy Association (NALA).
NALA organises two main National Literacy Events. The first of these is International Literacy Day, a one-day national conference and celebration of the work of the NALA Literacy service. The second is Literacy Awareness Week, a week of nationwide events focusing on adult literacy.
The VEC adult literacy service is open to all adults who have literacy difficulties.
There is no charge for joining a VEC adult literacy service or for participating in the tutor training course.
The VEC adult literacy service is available through your nearest VEC and in some local community/resource centres.
The address of your local literacy provider can be found here or in your local telephone directory. You can find out more information about literacy on www.literacy.ie.
In addition, information posters on the VEC adult literacy service are often displayed in community and resource centres, local libraries, churches, doctor's surgeries, post offices and Citizens Information Centres. These posters will tell you where to go and who to contact.
Many trade unions also offer free literacy schemes for their members. If you are a member of a trade union, you should contact your union directly for information.
If you are interested in getting classes from the VEC adult literacy service, you should contact the Adult Literacy Organiser in your local VEC. You can join at any stage during the year.
If you wish to become a tutor in a VEC adult literacy service,
you should contact your local VEC Adult Literacy Organiser
for details of initial training courses in your area. You can contact the
organiser by phoning your local VEC office or NALA.
If you have a question relating to this topic you can contact the Citizens Information Phone Service on 0761 07 4000 (Monday to Friday, 9am to 8pm) or you can visit your local Citizens Information Centre.