It’s never too late to learn to read

Trained volunteer tutors such as Barbara Kelly meet with their student in a public, neutral venue once a week for an hour and a half. Picture: Anita McInnes

FREE adult literacy tutoring is now available in the Yanchep area.
Read Write Now provides free one-to-one tutoring for adults in reading and writing.

Sometimes adults also need help with numeracy and many want help to use technology.

Trained volunteer tutors such as Barbara Kelly meet with their student in a public, neutral venue (library, community centre etc) for an hour and a half once a week.

It is a not a course and there are no textbooks.

The work focuses on what the student wants to learn and set goals they want to achieve.

It could be help with a training course, or TAFE study, perhaps to get a promotion at work, apply for or keep a job, or help children with their homework.

The Australian Bureau of Statistics survey in 1996 showed that 48 per cent of Australian adults have problems with functional, everyday literacy.

In WA, this affects 47.3 per cent of adults aged between 15 to 64 years.

This has not improved during the last 20 years.

This means:

  • 15 per cent can’t read newspapers, follow a recipe, make sense of timetables and can’t follow instructions on medicine packaging.
  • Almost 32 per cent struggle to develop new skills and knowledge as their lives and workplace change.
  • 93 per cent of Australian employers identify low foundation skills as an issue in the workplace.

Instead, they ‘get by’ by covering up, avoiding situations which may require literacy skills (eg seeking work, promotions, involvement in community life) and by relying on a family member.

In most cases, literacy problems result from denied or lost opportunities in childhood.

It is estimated that 90 per cent of reading failure occurs in the first two years of school for reasons such as:

  1. Children develop at different rates and some are just not ready to learn how to read when they first start school. They don’t catch on to the initial teaching and get further behind each year because subsequent instruction does not make sense.
  2. Inexperienced teachers were often allocated to the youngest classes and initial teaching may have been inadequate.
  3. Illness, family problems or frequent changes of school resulted in interrupted learning.

Read Write Now volunteer tutors attend a four-day training course (Northbridge) to pick up skills and strategies for helping an adult improve their literacy.

Ongoing professional development is also offered.

More information (including the application form to be a tutor) can be found on the website.

People do not need any formal qualifications to be a tutor – but they do need to be good readers, good spellers and have a good understanding of the written mechanics of English. Combine these skills with personal qualities of patience, being non-judgemental, having a genuine interest in working with people and a commitment to further training and you have a typical literacy tutor.

Adults wanting to ask about getting help can be put in touch with a local coordinator.

Students need to permanent residents of Australia and to have lived in Australia for five or more years.

Read Write Now is funded by the WA Department of Training and Workforce Development.
The program celebrated its 40th anniversary in 2017.

Call 1800 018 802, visit, email or go to the Facebook page Read Write Now.