Page 1

Since 2008, LITE has reached more than 12,000 community members. Since 2008, LITE has reached more than 12,000 community members through speeches and presentations, and recruited more than 2,500 students, 650 of whom become trained reading and math tutors, or GED and ESL assistants in the community. LITE plans to continue to raise awareness of functional illiteracy and recruit students and community members to become tutors. More importantly, we hope to see LITE expand beyond UA, and we believe that collaborating with other universities would help fight illiteracy even more. Literacy Is The Edge (LITE) is a student organization at The University of Alabama (UA), created in 2008, to develop awareness about the serious problem of illiteracy in Alabama. Functional illiteracy (FI) refers to someone who is unable to read, write and do basic math well enough to cope with everyday life. As many as one in four Alabamians struggle with this issue, and nationally more than 40 million American adults are functionally illiterate.


The students of LITE have put together this manual to help you create your own LITE organization at your university. The steps include details and examples to guide you through the process. To start your own LITE organization, you will need a group of energized and dedicated students who are willing to work together and raise awareness about functional illiteracy on campus and throughout your community. The following pages describe the literacy problem and 10 easy steps to help start your organization.

The Problem

1 of 4 Alabama residents is functionally illiterate (FI), meaning they lack the basic reading, writing, and computational skills to function in modern society. That is more than one million people in Alabama who need our help. • 23% of residents in Tuscaloosa County cannot read, and more than 40% of residents in some surrounding counties. • 18 million adults in the U.S. don’t read well enough to earn a living wage. • 40% of children entering the fourth grade cannot read at grade level. • 40% of fourth-graders will not graduate from high school. • 75% of small business owners in Alabama report that many applicants for job openings do not have basic reading, writing and math skills. Children who cannot read are more likely to drop out of school, become pregnant, commit a crime and live in poverty. It’s a vicious cycle. Your neighbors are suffering in silence. Give them a voice. Give them a future.

Did you Know?

65% of children of illiterate parents will become illiterate adults themselves.

43% of adults who cannot read live in poverty.

70% of Alabama’s prison inmates are FI.

One inmate costs the state $20,000 to house per year. It costs $4,800 per year to give someone a high-quality education.

Functional illiteracy isn’t as rare as you think. And the costs are greater than you imagine.


Since 2008 LITE students recruited more than 2,500 volunteers, 650 of whom became trained tutors, and raised more than $6,300 in financial contributions. This was achieved by executing comprehensive communications campaigns to raise awareness about the problem of functional illiteracy and gain volunteers. During such campaigns, students interact with other students as well as members and groups in the community It only takes two hours a week to make a positive difference in someone’s life. One training session, two hours per week.


The Solution is You.

10steps to start a literacy group on your campus. 1. Find an Advisor 2. Create a Team 3. Energize and Connect 4. Plan a Campaign 5. Design Key Messages 6. Choose Your Channels 7. Build Relationships 8. Publicize Your Work 9. Record Your Progress 10. Evaluate & Celebrate

Find an Advisor Find someone who will oversee your group and serve as an advisor. This can be a teacher, librarian, civic leader, student leader, mentor, or anyone with energy and belief in the cause.

Create a Team Recruit a small team and provide a structure for your literacy group. You can create a project team, student organization, or an independent study group. A fraternity or sorority could work, or a student club or group. You could even incorporate a literacy project into one of your classes. At The University of Alabama (UA), our class was split up into three teams: the book project team, the recruitment team, and the special events team. The book project team was responsible for putting together a book to send to other schools. In fact, it’s the book you’re reading. The recruitment team was responsible for finding groups to speak to and scheduling LITE members to speak to those groups. The special events team was responsible for coordinating and planning special events in the community to raise money for the Literacy Council of West Alabama (LCWA). This group also went into the community to solicit gift cards that LITE could raffle to raise more money.


ENERGIZE AND CONNECT Energize your team with talks and local stories. Bring in literacy council or group leaders, librarians, local heroes, people who have benefitted from tutoring, people who have tutored in the past, etc. If you think they’ll motivate your group to get started, invite them in! Connect with a partner who will help you find people who need tutoring, as well as someone who will provide your tutors with the necessary training. This can be a local literacy council or another literacy group, a library or a reading teacher. At UA, we teamed up with the Literacy Council of West Alabama (LCWA) to help raise awareness about functional illiteracy and to recruit and train tutors. We also teamed up with the adult reading program at Shelton State Community College, which provided tutor training.

Plan A CAMPAIGN Develop a campaign to recruit tutors and raise awareness about functional illiteracy. Begin by recruiting student volunteers. Where do you find them? Contact professors and speak to classes, especially those with an interest in education or communication. Reach out to student group leaders and attend meetings. Students who are already engaged outside of the classroom are likely to help with your cause, as well. Spread awareness to the community through media coverage and public meetings. Customize your campaign to the local community. The length of the campaign is up to you. Before taking action, it’s important to set objectives and develop strategies to accomplish those goals. Make sure your objectives are specific, clear and measurable. For example, our 2012 LITE campaign objectives were: 1. Speak to at least 30 groups/classes to recruit tutors by November 10, 2012. 2. Staff a LITE display at the student center for 14 hours during the recruiting period, November 1-10, 2012. 3. Recruit 250 potential tutors by November 10, 2012. 4. Enroll at least 75 volunteers in actual tutor training sessions. 5. Raise $1,500 for the LCWA by actively supporting at least two special events by the end of the semester, December 2012. 6. Complete a 16-24-page booklet, complete with visuals and examples, that explains how other colleges and universities can create their own LITE organizations, by the end of the semester, December 2012. 7. Distribute the booklet to colleges and universities in January 2013.


Design Key Messages Create key messages for your campaign, and link those messages to your local culture. At UA, we focused on West Alabama since that’s our region. When creating your messages, it’s important to localize them to your area so the audience can relate. The key messages for the 2011 LITE campaign at UA were: 1. Functional illiteracy (FI) is a global issue and a serious local problem: 1 in 4 Alabamians is FI. 2. Literacy is a community-wide issue, and you are part of the solution. 3. LCWA champions the power of literacy to improve lives and communities in West Alabama. Our goal is 100% literacy. 4. FI bears heavy costs for individuals, families, workplaces, and communities. 5. You can make a difference.

Choose your Channels Use a variety of channels to spread your messages. Don’t limit yourself to only online or print media. Here are other channels to consider: social media, TV, radio, newspapers, direct mail, fliers, print advertisements, brochures, emails, news releases, information tables, feature stories, special events, and fundraisers.

Be sure to tailor your message to your delivery method. Fliers are appropriate for special events with large audiences. Large posters can be used as the center piece for display tables on and off campus.

Be creative! Customize and use the best channels for each segment of the target audience. For example, a college newspaper is a great vehicle for feature story placement. Social media websites will generate quick conversations among students. Contrastingly, local television news will reach those community members who are not actively connected with college media. Find out where the conversation is happening among each segment of your audience, and take your message there!


Publicize your work Publicize your work and your accomplishments – whether that’s by posting pictures on social media sites, producing a blog or website, sending out news releases, or writing feature stories. You worked hard during your campaign. Let everyone know what you accomplished and the impact you’re making in your community. This may attract even more volunteers.

Build Relationships Interpersonal communication is essential for a successful campaign. Reach out to your campus and community, and build relationships with people and groups. Reach out to any group that’s willing to let you speak. Distribute sign up sheets when you speak to gather contact information of potential volunteers, and before you leave, obtain the contact information of the person with whom you coordinated your speech. Let them know you’ll keep in contact in the future. Maintain open lines of communication with groups that you talk to. It is amazing that so many people we speak to are unaware of the serious problem of functional illiteracy. Some people always volunteer to help when they become aware of the problem.


Build a website.

Connect on social media.

Record your progress Keep track of everything you do, such as the groups you talk to, the hours you spend working on the campaign, businesses that donate to your cause, the number of people who sign up to become tutors, how many people attend tutoring sessions, the amount of news coverage you receive, the amount of money you raise, and so forth. Track everything that you do in order to provide data for a grant proposal, or other forms of support.

Evaluate and Celebrate Evaluate and celebrate your project. What went well? What didn’t go well? What can make future projects bigger and better? These are some of the questions you should ask yourself. The answers will guide you in the future. Take what you learned and build on it.

“We didn’t realize just how much of a potential impact our campaign could have until we looked at the big picture and at how all of our events worked together,” -Abby Luker, LITE president, 2012


Contact us for more information

or contact our advisor

dr. bruce berger or

other contacts for literacy information in alabama Literacy council of central alabama beth wilder, president

Literacy council of west alabama kitty wheeler, program manager

birmingham, al

tuscaloosa, al



alabama literacy alliance johnnie aycock, coordinator

lee county literacy coalition sue edge, executive director

montgomery, al

opelika, al



Literacy is the Edge Booklet  

LITE informational booklet

Literacy is the Edge Booklet  

LITE informational booklet