About Read Write Now
In 1976, Bill Devereux, a member of the Adult Literacy Board in England visited Perth and inspired the formatoin of an Executive Committee to oversee the establishment of a program using volunteers to tutor in adult literacy. Volunteer tutoring began in 1977 to support apprentices with literacy needs. Demand grew quickly and the concept of establishing Volunteer Coordinators to operate groups began in a small way.
In May 1999, the service known so far a s Volunteer Tutor Scheme was relaunched with a new name and image to tackle the sense of shame that has surrounded adult literacy. Read Write Now was launched with great fanfare at Kings Park with 250 loyal volunteers attending to show their support.
For over 45 years, Read Write Now has brought literacy to West Australians far and wide. Currently the Program operates in 18 regions throughout the state, including the Perth metropolitan area and regional centres Albany, Avon, Bunbury, Collie, Esperance and Katanning.
Read Write Now changes lives through literacy
A report by the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD, 2019) has found, “...more than one in five Australians can at most complete very simple reading or mathematical tasks...". The Australian Bureau of Statistics Survey (2006) showed that 46.8% of the adult population have low literacy levels.
Low literacy levels can restrict adults to low paying jobs and limit opportunities for training or promotion. Perpetuating cycles of low literacy in families can also occur, along with social exclusion as they try to hide this problem from others. The fear of having illiteracy discovered is almost crippling for some adults. Typically they are reluctant to cross the threshold into a formal education institution, as they associate their sense of failure with the school system.
This is where Read Write Now provides a softer option. Volunteer tutors work one-on-one in an informal setting such as a private space in a local library, community centre or coffee shop. The weekly hour and a half session is spent on individual learning programs developed jointly by the tutor and student to meet the goals of the adult student. Tutors rebuild the confidence of the student in their ability to learn and help them to overcome the shame they often feel.
It is not just the thousands of individuals who have sought help who benefit - it is their children, their employers, the local community, the WA economy and ultimately society as a whole. Higher levels of literacy build the social capital of communities, leading to greater participation and community resilience.