Improve your Reading and Writing Skills with These 5 Organizations


Photo via @strandbookstore.


Improve your reading and writing skills with these 5 organizations


A total of 3.4 million New Yorkers are either functionally illiterate (reading below the 5th-grade level), lack a High School Diploma or cannot speak English, and fewer than 10% are receiving help for their literacy needs. As a consequence of this issue, parents who can't read are likely to have children who can't read well.  50% of the chronically unemployed are functionally illiterate, 75% of prisoners fall into the lowest two levels of literacy, and 85% of juvenile offenders have reading problems.


There are numerous organizations trying to resolve these inequalities in New York that you can contact with.  If you want to learn how to read and write in English, expand your knowledge of Spanish, discuss books, and get creative with your words, you will find an opportunity to improve your literacy during this slow New York summer. Make your own adventure with Reading Partners, El Taller Latino Americano, Girls Write Now, Strand Book Store, and Literacy Partners. 


Reading Partners


Reading Partners believes in educational equality to disrupt systematic racism and poverty. To support the development of lifelong literacy skills, Reading Partners is committed to building a culturally competent and representative team to advance social justice through their service in schools and communities.


Without strong literacy skills, students will not have equitable access to higher education institutions to further their education and their career options will be limited. With this in mind, the organization connects mentors with mentees to strengthen their reading and writing skills. They are currently accepting volunteers for the 2020-21 school year to offer to individualize literacy tutoring for elementary school students. Depending on the status of school re-openings in each local district, either online and in-person opportunities may be available. 


If you want to become a Reading Partner mentor:
- You must be 14 years or older.

- You have to commit to as little as one hour a week (tutoring generally takes place 8 am to 5 pm Mon-Thurs). 

- Attend a hour-long tutor orientation session to learn how to be an effective tutor.

- You have to pass a background check.

- You need to agree to the terms of the organization’s terms of tutor code of conduct. 


Click here to learn more. 


Photo via Reading Partners.


El Taller Latino Americano


El Taller is located in El Barrio's Artspace PS 109 on East 99th between 2nd and 3rd Avenues and offers its community a varied menu of Spanish and English language classes, arts programming, and music. The organization seeks to educate, engage and gather together with culturally and linguistically diverse groups towards their common interest in and love of creativity.


Through their partnerships, they work in the public school system, hospitals and other community organizations. They are currently offering adult Spanish classes online, enabling students to learn Spanish of the Americas in an artistic, conversational, and community-based setting. 


Click here to learn more about their group classes, private and semi-private and Spanish courses for professional development.




Girls Write Now


Girls Write Now supports young women through leadership and creativity. The core of the program is through mentorship, where experienced writers are matched with teenagers to guide them during their creative process in order to support them by polishing their stories to achieve their academic goals after high school. 


While applications for this fall are closed, we invite you to explore their publications.  In “Taking Our Place in History: The Girls Write Now 2020 Anthology,” mentees are using their voices for change in one of the most uncertain periods of modern history. Click here to discover more Girls Write Now books.


You can also attend their online summer program, full of activities such as writing workshops, TV writing bootcamp, and open mic nights. Maybe you can help a student in your community, walk them through these options, and be their first reader!


Strand Book Store


NYXT recently interviewed Nancy Bass’, the Strand’s owner, where she told us about the legacy of this business and how they collaborate with organizations such as Pen America, Fresh Air Fund, and give tours to people in writing programs and MFA programs. 


“The Strand was founded 93 years ago by my grandfather Ben Bass, and it was in an area in New York City called Book Row, which had 48 other used bookstores. He was competing against all of them. One was called The Cheapest Book Store, one was called Friendlies, they had a music bookstore, they all specialized in different things. With rents rising in the 1950s they all started to shutter, and my dad was involved in the business at that point.  His name was Fred Bass. He took a leap of faith and he found the space that we reside in right now. My dad passed away two years ago, I’ve been working with him for 32 years, but he left the store to me, so I am now running it.”


Nancy Bass, Strand Book Store owner. 


The famous bookstore is operating again with new health guidelines during the current coronavirus pandemic and just opened a second location in New York’s Upper West Side. During the second half of this year, they organized online community events like “Laura Lippman with Taffy Brodesser-Akner: My Life as a Villainess” and “Morgan Jerkins with Kiese Laymon: Wandering in Strange Lands.” 


Click here to see all Strand’s events.



Literacy Partners


Literacy Partners strengthens families through a two generation approach to education. With free classes, community workshops, and educational media, low-income and immigrant parents and caregivers develop literacy and language skills they need to succeed in today’s world.


These are some of the ways you can volunteer through Literacy Partners. Click here to learn more.


Facilitate an English practice group. Literacy Partners provides English conversation practice groups where immigrant New Yorkers learn about free city resources, build their confidence, and share their personal triumphs and challenges. Discuss immigrant-centered scenarios and how to access NYC resources (e.g., paid sick leave, translators for parent-teacher conferences, free and confidential mental health services). Participants work together to practice English, solve problems, and advocate for themselves and their families in an English dominant world. Volunteer facilitators are needed throughout NYC at various schedules.  


Teach a fellow New Yorker how to read. Literacy Partners has been teaching adults to read since 1974. Literacy Partners’ newly relaunched Basic Literacy Program is recruiting volunteer tutors. After comprehensive training and with consistent hands-on support, tutors provide one-on-one phonics based reading instruction to adult New Yorkers between the ages of 20 and 87. 


Work at Literacy Partner’s staff’s office. Help serve more families with better results by volunteering in our Communications, Development, or Program Departments with a wide variety of day-to-day tasks and special projects.



Related articles:


Get lost in the stacks, Strand Book Store is back!

PRESS PLAY: Girls Write Now on How to Stay Together From Home

15 NYC Organizations Offering Indoor Learning Activities for Kids at Home


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