Scrabble Night

The Literacy Council hosted a Scrabble Night on Thursday, February 2nd in honor of National Literacy Action Week, an initiative to strengthen literacy activism in local communities. During the week-long celebration, literacy programs across the nation join together to raise awareness about literacy and create change on college campuses and within the greater community. 

From Competitive Scrabble to Informal Bananagrams

Dr. Bill Snoddy and Jacob Cohen of the Asheville NLAWScrabble Club partnered with the Literacy Council to provide necessary gear including game boards, racks, tiles, clocks, and score sheets for tournament style play. Their Scrabble expertise helped create a competitive environment for players both new and experienced to test the limits of official game rules. Limited to only 25 minutes of play, challengers had to think about word choices quickly and were subject to an electronic word judge program called Zyzzyva to make decisions fairly.

For participants who were uninterested in Scrabble, there was a wide selection of other word games to choose from, including Upwords, Boggle, Apples to Apples, Bananagrams, and Sentence Cubes.

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While the Scrabble Night event was offered as a way to engage the community in fun literacy activities, there was also plenty of time for reflection on the impact of literacy in every day life. Volunteers and literacy advocates in the community shared why literacy was important to them by writing responses on a dry erase board.

Literacy is Important to Me Because…

DSC_0612The Student Coalition for Action in Literacy Education (SCALE) collected responses like the one pictured as part of a social media campaign for National Literacy Action Week. Individuals could submit their pictures for a chance to win a free t-shirt and other prizes over the course of the week. SCALE also offered two free webinars: “Why Literacy Matters” and “Race Based Conversations with Kids Matter”.

Words (and Photos) with Friends

For more photos of Scrabble Night, scroll through our image gallery below or share your own on our Facebook page!

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scrabble 3        DSC_0611 (1)






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How Tutors Impact the Literacy Council’s Sustainability

Yellow sheet: attendance log for one-on-one tutors

You already know that you impact your students’ lives. You see it in their improved skills, increased self-confidence, and achievement of personal goals.

But you may not have known that you also impact the Literacy Council’s funding and sustainability every time you turn in your hours and assign a post-test or CASAS test.

Our Federal Funding is Outcomes-Based

Did you know that the Literacy Council receives over $100,000 annually (about a third of our overall budget) from the federal Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act (WIOA)? In North Carolina, this funding is administered by the NC Community College System. It funds our Adult Education and ESOL programs, which serve 275-300 students per year.

For the past four years, the amount of funding that we have received is related to two factors: a) an annual grant application, and b) student outcomes from the previous year.

Next year, our organization will receive base funds and bonuses when our students are successful in:

  • Attending class regularly
  • Improving post-test scores
  • Earning a High School Equivalency diploma (like a GED)
  • Enrolling in post-secondary education (like an AB Tech certificate course) after leaving the Literacy Council.

The legislation also requires that we work with students on preparing for the workforce and getting jobs, though our funding is not dependent on this.

Our Tutors and Students Produce Some of the Best Outcomes in the State

The NC Community College System provides WIOA funds to literacy councils and community colleges across the state, serving a total of 86,000 students. Here’s how we stacked up in 2015/16:

  • The state recommends that literacy council students receive an average of 40 instructional hours each year
    • LCBC students received an average of 53 instructional hours
  • 58% of students statewide received sufficient instructional hours and were post-tested
    • 81% of LCBC students received sufficient instructional hours and were post-tested
  • 33% of students across the state improved post-test scores by a full level
    • 43% of LCBC students improved post-test scores by a full level

In short, you are helping our students outperform state averages!

How Can You Continue to Help?

  • Submit your attendance logs on time. Funding for your program is directly correlated with the number of instructional hours that our students receive. You can click here to download a new attendance log from our website or pick one up in the office.
  • Encourage your student to stick with it! If a student “stops out” for three or more months, they will have to reenter the program with a new pre-test. We want our students to continue to show persistence throughout the year. Students are be better equipped to show improvement if they have at least 40 hours of instruction per year.
  • Use lesson plans that include Adult Education Content Standards. For ESOL tutors, Ventures lesson plans provide a perfect starting point for your lesion plans. For Adult Education tutors, please follow the Wilson lesson plan or use the supplementary materials you discussed with the program director. If you have questions about this, please contact your program director.
  • Prepare your students for CASAS testing. Your students are most likely to be successful if you get them accustomed to the testing process by administering unit tests when appropriate and talking about test taking skills. If you need support on how to do this, please attend the spring in-service training about CASAS testing.
  • Talk to your students about their goals. Check in with your students about their goals regularly to ensure they have the encouragement and information they need to be successful. Once you have a clear understanding of your students’ goals, we can provide you with resources and contacts that you can use to help them be successful.

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A letter to our community — valuing diversity through education

A  Literacy Council student celebrates passing the US Naturalization exam

To our Buncombe County neighbors,

The Literacy Council of Buncombe County values people of all ages, races, religions, national and ethnic origins, abilities and disabilities, sexual orientations, and gender identities. Our staff and board are committed to creating opportunities for all people in Buncombe County to receive high-quality educational services. We honor the gifts that our diverse students and volunteers bring to our community.

In the month of November, we received inquiries from 50 people wanting to become volunteer tutors. This is twice the number we would typically receive over the course of a month. This tells us that people in our community honor and value literacy and English language education and want to help our students achieve their goals.

We are grateful to live and work in such a supportive community.

With great respect,
Literacy Council of Buncombe County

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Part-Time ESOL AmeriCorps Position

Are you looking for the opportunity to make a difference? The Literacy Council has an exciting opportunity to join our team for a year! Apply today to become the Literacy Council’s ESOL Assistant through AmeriCorps.

Apply Here

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Join AmeriCorps and “get things done”! Become a NC LiteracyCorps member at the Literacy Council of Buncombe County and improve literacy and English language skills in our community.

NC LiteracyCorps members provide literacy tutoring to youth and adults while building program capacity through volunteer tutor management and support. The ESOL Assistant LiteracyCorps member will have the opportunity to:

Promote ESOL Student Success

  • Complete the English for Speakers of Other Languages tutor training
  • Become a tutor for at least one small group class
  • Act as a substitute tutor for small group classes when necessary
  • Conduct student orientations and intake testing for students in small groups
  • Communicate with students and/or tutors when they have missed classes, need to reschedule sessions, or need to be added to the waiting list
  • Assist in developing community partnerships to build a support system for students
  • Work with the ESOL Program Director to promote use of the computer lab

Provide Tutor Support

  • Assist with tutor appreciation events
  • Work with the ESOL Program Director to plan in-service trainings
  • Assist tutors with checking out and making copies of learning materials

Increase Community Awareness

  • Collaborate with community organizations to assist with events involving volunteers
  • Participate in volunteer fairs 
  • Plan and implement national identity days

The Literacy Council’s NC LiteracyCorps member will begin in late September 2016 and complete their service year in July 2017. Over the course of the year, the member will become an integral part of the Literacy Council’s team, providing 900 hours of service.

AmeriCorps LogoBenefits to the Member

NC LiteracyCorps members receive a living allowance of up to $6,265 and qualify for limited health insurance reimbursements. Upon completion of requirements, they are eligible to receive an educational award of $2,887. NC LiteracyCorps members receive training in volunteer management, literacy issues, tutoring strategies, diversity, and leadership skills. The member placed with the Literacy Council will also have a professional development stipend to participate in conferences.


To serve with the NC LiteracyCorps, the member must:

  • be at least 17 years old
  • have a high school diploma or equivalent
  • successfully pass statewide and national criminal background checks
  • be a U.S. Citizen, National, or Legal Permanent Resident of the United States

Preferred qualifications are:

  • fluent in Spanish and English (required)
  • a deep commitment to providing educational opportunities to economically disadvantaged adults and those who are from other cultures
  • excellent interpersonal skills with the ability to work effectively with staff, volunteers, and members of the community
  • outstanding written and oral communication skills
  • a working knowledge of office technology including Microsoft Office suites
  • ability to work independently and collaboratively
  • creative, strategic thinker with excellent organizational skills and ability to track deadlines
  • available to work occasional evenings

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9/11 National Day of Service & Remembrance

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Each year, the Corporation for National & Community Service spearheads the effort to encourage Americans to volunteer in their communities during national days of service. The September 11th National Day of Service and Remembrance is a time where we can pay tribute to 9/11 victims, survivors, emergency responders, and others who were impacted by the attack. 

The Literacy Council of Buncombe County will be observing this national day of service during the week of September 12th – September 16th by encouraging tutors and their students to incorporate reading passages and learning exercises relevant to the following themes:

  • People coming together to rebuild community
  • Being aware of difference and understanding diversity (for example: discrimination and stereotypes)
  • Being linked to a global community
  • Immigrant experiences
  • Random acts of kindness and goodwill
  • Responding to emergencies 

Supplemental texts have been provided to our ESOL tutors to use in tutoring sessions this week, based on skill level. For curriculum resources that the Literacy Council of Buncombe County has available, see below:

Calling 911 Calling 911 (Beginner)

The lesson on “Calling 911” in the Health Stories text by Ann Gianola is perfect for teaching beginning learners important vocabulary related to emergency situations. Activities with this lesson might include having a dialogue with a 911 operator, identifying different medical emergencies, providing contact information to a first responder, or learning how to communicate needs.

A Country of Immigrants (Intermediate)A Country of Immigrants

The chapter on “A Country of Immigrants” in the Contact USA text by Paul Abraham and Daphne Mackey will allow intermediate learners to explore the experience of immigrants while practicing reading comprehension. Activities with this lesson might include a dialogue about where immigrants come from, what cultural differences exist, and how communities respond to newcomers. 

New Land, New Language

Fitting In (Advanced)

The lesson on “Fitting In” in the New land, New Language text by Maxine Berger and Martha Siegel provides advanced learners with an opportunity to learn about discrimination and stereotyping while practicing writing skills. Activities with this lesson might include using adjectives to describe people, using adjectives to compare people, and writing about individual experiences with discrimination. 

The supplemental texts that were selected for tutors to use during the September 11th National Day of Service and Remembrance will help tutors and students have meaningful conversations around the lasting impact of this tragedy. 

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