GIVING THE GIFT OF LITERACY-The Nashville Adult Literacy Council

The Nashville Adult Literacy Council was founded in 1982. Starting with just a few people volunteering to help a handful of adult students learn to read, they have since taught thousands of people through classes and one-on-one tutoring. The NALC served approximately 1,700 learners last year alone, with the help of 600 volunteers.

The problems NALC students face are vast. Consequently, illiteracy is injurious to individuals and to our society as a whole:

  • Illiteracy contributes directly to unemployment, crime rates and healthcare costs.
  • ProLiteracy – a national non-profit – estimates that low-literate adults in the United States add as much as $238 billion in costs to the health care system every year.
  • Low literacy costs the U.S. at least $225 billion each year in non-productivity in the workforce, crime and loss of tax revenue due to unemployment.
  • If you are a child born to illiterate parents, you have a 72% chance of scoring at the lowest reading levels yourself.
  • The best indicator of a child’s academic success is the education level of the mother.

The mission at NALC is simple: their volunteers teach reading, writing and English skills to adult learners. Preparation for high school equivalency and citizenship tests is also available. The NALC is the recipient of eight national awards and two regional awards. Among the awards are marks for an outstanding program, staff dedication and student achievement. Their awards have also included being selected as a model of best practices for the management of a waiting list. The Council additionally received an Innovation in Action Award for volunteerism.

The vision of the NALC for the next 3 to 5 years is to serve more people with more efficiency. They are continually working on improving the quality of their services to help people achieve their personal goals. Literacy is the foundation for a better life – whatever that may mean for the individual learner. Statistics show that one in eight adults in Nashville can’t read at a functional level. In addition, 17 percent of Nashvillians go home and speak a language other than English. Not being able to read makes everything difficult. Imagine not being able to decipher a medication label, apply for a job or read a book to a child. This can severely limit a person’s quality of life and in some instances can even be life-threatening.

The people who work and volunteer with the Nashville Adult Literacy Council consider it an honor and a privilege to work with people who are in turn striving to better themselves through literacy. Literacy benefits every aspect of life, from work to family to finances. When someone learns to read and speak English, it opens a world of possibilities. More than one student has set the heart-warming goal of writing a love letter to his or her spouse!

The NALC considers the dedication of their volunteers to be the backbone of their program, and there is always a list of learners waiting to be paired with a volunteer tutor, especially in the Antioch area. Unfortunately, the wait can be as long as six months or more for the free services. The volunteers are asked to commit to a learner two to three hours a week for at least six months, and to come with patience and an encouraging attitude. The rewards for volunteering are rich. If you can read, you can help!


Follow one man’s literacy journey here:

For a schedule of upcoming training sessions or for contact information, visit:


Currently, some of the organization’s donors have been unable to provide the level of financial support they had in the past, which has created a significant funding shortfall for the organization. As a result, operations have been scaled back so that NALC can remain financially stable while still providing quality services to their students. Donations, no matter how big or small, are greatly appreciated. The NALC is actively seeking new investors who want to join them on their journey to empower lives through literacy. Their goal is to be able to give the gift of literacy to everyone who wants to receive it.



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