Love to read? You need to volunteer with one of these 9 literacy groups in Birmingham.

Vulcan Material Company employees, Vera Copeland and Carrie Bridgwaters, with a STAIR student. Photo via Carrie Bridgwaters

Imagine living in an Alabama with 100% literacy. For people who struggle, learning to read is a game-changer.

For those of of us who’ve had our nose in a book (or a phone . . . ahem), since we can remember, it’s hard to picture life without words. But that’s the reality for 15% of Alabamians, according to the National Center for Educational Statistics. Find out how you can make a difference.

We could do better than 85% literacy, y’all

1—The Literacy Council of Central Alabama

The Literacy Council covers ALL the bases when it comes to supporting and strengthening “organizations that provide literacy services in Central Alabama.” Here are some of the highlights of what they do:

  • “Refer tutors and learners to adult, children and family literacy programs through the (205) 326-1925 and 1-888-448-READ Helpline”
  • Provide training for tutors and continuing ed to tutors and community educators
  • Run no cost “tutor training workshops throughout the year to certify volunteers as Basic Literacy and/or ESOL tutors.”
  • Teach “workshops for volunteers wanting to tutor school-aged children.”

To raise money for all the awesome groups they support, they’re holding a big Kickin’ Chicken Wing Fest fundraiser. It’s August 17 at Ghost Train Brewing Co. from 1-5PM.

We’re all invited! Kids’ tickets are $5, adults $15, or you can pull together a team of friends for $200, and a company team for $300. Get all the details here.

2—STAIR Birmingham promotes literacy by tutoring 2nd graders

Photo via STAIR

The STAIR tutoring program (Start the Adventure in Reading) helps 2nd graders all over the city. Volunteers work one-on-one with students for two hours a week.

Find out requirements to be a tutor and apply here.

3—Birmingham Jumpstart promotes adult literacy

Birmingham Jumpstart has a range of adult basic literacy and English as a Second Language (ESL) classes in Fairfield, Bessemer and Woodlawn.

Find out what it takes to become a Jumpstarter here.

4—Desert Island Supply Co. goes beyond literacy to love of written words

Desert Island Supply Company helps instill the love of the written word.

Find out more about their programs in Woodlawn and across the city and find out how to volunteer here.

5—Freedom House

Freedom House is also doing some great work on literacy in the Magic City. Check out their programs here, and reach out to them if you want to get involved.

6—East Lake Initiative

East Lake Initiative has been tutoring and mentoring young people at Barrett Elementary School for ages. Here’s what they have to say about getting involved:

This is a great opportunity to build relationships & invest in kids’ futures through education.

Elementary school tutors meet once every week with students to help tutor in math & reading. . .

Middle school tutors meet once a week in the afternoon with students who need help in all subjects.

Contact the folks at the East Lake Initiative to find out more.

7—UAB Red Mountain Writing Project Literacy Centers

UAB Red Mountain Writing Project Centers is one of the literacy programs in Birmingham.
UAB Red Mountain Writing Project logo. From UAB Red Mountain Writing Project via Facebook

Here’s what they have to say about their program:

UAB Red Mountain Writing Project is a local affiliate of the National Writing Project. We offer cutting edge writing professional development for educators of all ages and all content areas.

Find them on Facebook or on their website.

8—Better Basics advances literacy for all ages

Better Basics is all about “making a difference in the lives of children and their families.”

Find them at or on Instagram at betterbasicsbham.

9—Literary Healing Arts Foundation

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Part 1-she wasn’t southern the least bit. Mrs. Simpson gave me her Jewish stories and showed me the divine human connection between them both. Repeating. I refuse to believe the world and the south is going to hate in a hand-basket. Southern transplants teach southern children how to love. I see stories. Mrs. Simpson was my freshman English teacher. A small Jewish white women from out west or up north teaching in an all black southern rural school. I got to pass out green journals every 4th period. I loved journaling and Mrs. Simpson’s class was my safe space a sacred sanctuary for expression. I had my heartbroken by some tall football star my freshmen year and I couldn’t shake that puppy love feeling. Mrs. Simpson sent permission slips asking parents to sign a release so she could teach Peace Lessons on the Holocaust. I carried my Elie Wiesel book, Night in the corner of my ragged journal kissed against The Diary of Anne Frank. There haven’t been any books that have shaped my writing to heal journey more than these. And there hasn’t been a person who has been as pivotal in my dream of becoming a writer than Mrs. Simpson. She took my hand as a Freshman and believed in me so much that she asked me to start a Journalism club and newspaper at my all black high school. She understood my southern stories our stories. She also gave me her Jewish stories and showed me the divine human connection between them both. I think about her all the time especially over the last couple of years on my journey of becoming a writer and storyteller. I want to write to her (to know if she is still with us)and to flesh out stories about the impact my freshmen English teacher had on my humanity. The integral impact on my southern humanity’s desire to connect and advocate through words and writing to the world. I wonder if she remembers(ed) me? Mrs. Simpson instilled the healing power of words inside of young budding eager to learn southern kids. For me she was my first real life white woman speaking to truth power ally and writing heroin. The reason I am attempting to follow this path belongs to the Peace Lessons and Mrs. Simpson.

A post shared by Lithealer (@beautifulblackpoetry) on

There comes a time in most reader’s lives when they realize they have their own stories to tell. Writer Salaam Green started the Literary Healing Arts Foundation as a way to promote the healing power of words.

You can follow her at @beautifulblackpoetry on Instagram for writing prompts and inspiration, or check out her website.

If you want to help with literacy—whether it’s with kids, adults, ESL, or instilling a love of the written word—Birmingham is full of opportunities to make a difference.

Author: Sharron Mendel Swain

Writer, Interviewer + Adventurer | Telling stories to make a difference