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Become an Adult Literacy Tutor

Become a Volunteer Tutor for SBPL’s Adult Literacy Program

Make a difference in someone’s life by becoming a volunteer tutor for SBPL’s Adult Literacy Program. SBPL Adult Education staff train volunteer tutors to help adult learners improve reading, writing, and spelling skills and work toward long-term goals such as becoming US citizens or passing the GED exam.

You are eligible to become an Adult Literacy Tutor if you are:

  • At least 18 years old
  • Pass a background screening
  • Can read and speak English proficiently
  • Complete our 8-hour orientation and training workshop
  • Have 2 to 4 hours per week to devote to volunteer tutoring

No formal or previous experience is necessary to become a tutor. Potential tutors need only strong basic English language skills, and possess a sincere desire to help another adult improve their literacy and reach other educational goals. There is a particular need for tutors who have the ability to work with learners whose first language is Spanish.

Expectations of Tutors:

  • Meet with a learner for at least one hour a week in any public location such as any of our library locations, or a coffee shop, community center, or similar location
  • Spend about an hour a week preparing lessons, projects, or materials for tutoring sessions
  • Maintain regular contact with program staff while they are tutoring
  • Complete quarterly reports about activities and progress towards your learner’s goals
  • Not share personal information about a learner or their progress with anyone but SBPL Adult Education staff and maintain confidentiality about your work with a learner

There is no cost to the tutor for the training or materials. SBPL Adult Education staff provide additional training throughout the year, as well as ongoing support for tutor-learner pairs.

How Tutors and Learners are Matched:

  • Location and schedule availability
  • Tutor’s area of expertise and learner needs
  • Personality and interests

For more information, contact SBPL Adult Education staff by calling (805) 564-5619, emailing, or completing this contact form.

To begin the process of becoming a tutor, complete the volunteer application form.

About SBPL’s Adult Literacy Program

SBPL’s Adult Literacy Program began in 1987 and serves the greater Santa Barbara area. We train volunteer tutors to work with both native English speakers and English language learners in our community. At any one time during the year, there are about 100 active tutors working with close to 200 learners on everything from language literacy, citizenship test preparation, ESL conversation, science, to GED preparation.

SBPL’s Adult Literacy Program is supported in part by grant funding, including the California Library Literacy Services grant from the California State Library, with additional support from the Family Service Agency of Santa Barbara and the Santa Barbara Adult Education Consortium.

Frequently Asked Questions for Tutors

Why is there a confidentiality commitment?
It is a giant step for many learners to come to the library to seek literacy help and, often, learners are not ready to open up to their families, friends, and co-workers about working with a tutor. Therefore, confidentiality is very important. Although we encourage you to discuss your tutoring experience publicly, please be careful not to reveal the name of your learner to anyone outside of the program unless you have an explicit agreement with your learner.

How often do learners and tutors meet?
We ask for a minimum volunteer commitment of 2 hours a week: 1 hour of prep and 1 hour of tutoring. However, many tutors work many more hours per week and with multiple learners, as their schedules and interest levels permit. Consistency is the key. On average, our tutors work with their learners 1.5 hours per week.

Over what period of time do learners and tutors meet?
It really varies. We have some learners and tutors who have been working together for over 5 years. Sometimes matches last just a few months. There are also many variables that affect tutor and learner ability to commit the time and energy to tutoring. That’s why we’re always looking for new, dedicated tutors like you!

How do tutors begin? What is the correct approach?
Skills acquired during the tutor training provide tutors with the basic information needed to teach an adult how to read. However, the approach used depends primarily upon the learner and their needs, skills and goals. The one-to-one nature of our program allows the staff, tutor, and learner to decide on the best approach.

How much support are tutors provided?
Adult Literacy staff are committed to your development as a tutor and to your learner’s progress toward their literacy goals. To that end we are available by phone or email whenever you have a concern, need consultation on an approach, or a resource recommendation. We also love catching up with our tutors so please drop by or reach out anytime to say “hello.” You’ll also be put on the mailing list for our monthly bulletin and news flashes to keep you current on any upcoming events or new resources that might be of interest to you and your learners. We also schedule several in-service workshops during the year that focus on a particular learning point or training a specific skill. These events and workshops will provide opportunities for you to meet other tutors, to exchange ideas, to learn new skills and see new materials.

How much does this cost tutors?
There is no charge for the tutor training or resources. We also encourage you to make suggestions for resources or supplies that will enhance your tutoring. We will do our best to make them available to you.

How do tutors complete reports?
Our services are supported by grants which require us to report accurately on your activities. Information collected includes: number hours spent tutoring, number of hours spent preparing, and learner progress toward goals.. Every three months you will receive an email with a form to fill out, which only takes a few minutes to complete.

Last Updated: Oct 20, 2021
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