Literacy Volunteers of Maricopa County: Providing the Power of Reading

by RaeAnne Marsh

It’s a whopping 45 percent of the Phoenix population that can benefit from reading instruction, says Kelly Stewart, executive director of Literacy Volunteers of Maricopa County. Some need instruction in English as a second language (many students are referred from the Somali and Sudanese refugee center, Stewart notes); some struggled in school themselves and now, as parents, want to help their children do better.

Arizona’s Department of Education estimates one in five adults in Phoenix reads below fifth-grade level. “We don’t realize how much of the population doesn’t have sufficient skills to do the things we take for granted every day,” says Stewart. She notes that some of LVMC’s students do not have a reading level that gives them access to high-school material, so for those without a high school diploma, “We have to increase their reading level before they can study for the GED.”

Some volunteers work in the computer lab, providing one-on-one assistance to students as they work through their self-paced reading program. Others offer instruction in a more traditional classroom setting. Retired or recent college grad, they represent a variety of professions — but all share an appreciation of reading. Their commitment puts a face on the mission of LVMC: to achieve literacy in Maricopa County.



  • EVENT: Save the date — Feb. 16 & 17, 2013, for the book fair put on by Volunteer Nonprofit Services of Arizona. Literacy Volunteers of Maricopa County is a main recipient of that effort, which usually sells more than 600,000 books.
  • Other funding comes from government grants, endowments and a strong donor base.
  • Literacy Volunteers of Maricopa County is one of few adult education programs left in the community that is still focused on basic and intermediate reading instruction.
  • LVMC can serve 300-350 students at its main center in central Phoenix, and 100-120 at its north center; over the course of a year, it serves more than 1,500 students.
  • Last year, 83 active volunteers donated more than 6,000 hours.

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