Stopping illiteracy strengthens community

Published in the Santa Fe New Mexican on December 24, 2017

My View

by Kimberly Wiley

Surely, many were touched by Robert Nott’s article (“ ‘I thought it was too late,’ ” Nov. 20), detailing the crippling effects of illiteracy and the incredible empowerment that learning to read can bring.

While the article addressed this issue primarily from a statewide perspective, residents in Santa Fe County should not be complacent, believing because we are a relatively prosperous county that this is not also a pressing issue for us. The 2010 census indicated that 34 percent of adults in Santa Fe County are functionally illiterate, and 32 percent speak only limited English. This means more than 50,000 people find their lives affected by difficulties with reading, writing and speaking English, and the repercussions are felt throughout the area.

I hope that the 2020 census will show some improvement in those numbers, and the good news is that you can help make that so.

Since 1985, Literacy Volunteers of Santa Fe has served the Santa Fe community, providing literacy instruction for adults and their families. Since then, the group has provided almost a half-million hours of instruction to help more than 13,000 adult students. We offer programs that provide free, quality tutoring in basic literacy and English as a second language, financial literacy, health literacy, citizenship and numeracy skills. We hold small group and one-to-one free tutoring sessions all over the county: at work sites, in churches, schools, public libraries, community centers, coffee houses — wherever it is convenient for the student and tutor to meet.

Here is how you can get involved with this important and fulfilling service:

  • Refer potential students to Literacy Volunteers of Santa Fe. They can call us at 505-428-1353 — hablamos español — or email us at
  • Become a volunteer tutor. We provide training sessions for tutors in basic literacy and English as a second language, as well as professional development workshops on various topics throughout the year. You can get more information on this or complete a volunteer application form on our website:
  • Donate. A growing portion of our budget is supported by individual donors and grants from foundations and the business community. Ten years ago, more than 50 percent of our funding came from state and federal sources — now it is less than a third. Please see our website for details on how to donate to Literacy Volunteers of Santa Fe.
  • Sponsor an ESL, basic literacy or citizenship tutoring group at your work site. Last fiscal year, we had 19 workplace tutoring sites ranging from Borrego Construction to The Santa Fe New Mexican to Ten Thousand Waves.

I have been tutor with Literacy Volunteers of Santa Fe for six years and a board director and officer for four. When asked to join the board, I was initially reluctant, because I was so thrilled with my role as a tutor and didn’t want to curtail my teaching activities. I count as some of my most fulfilling achievements seeing my students gaining promotions at work, being able to be more involved in their children’s education and attending my students’ citizenship induction ceremonies. It is impossible to express how deeply gratifying and empowering it is to help someone else achieve an important goal or a life dream.

In these uncertain times, it’s easy to feel overwhelmed, powerless and disenfranchised — becoming a volunteer tutor is the perfect antidote.

Kimberly Wiley is the president elect of the Literacy Volunteers of Santa Fe Board of Directors and believes passionately in the organization’s mission — to provide free tutoring to adults in reading, writing and speaking English to strengthen our community, families and the workforce.on this or complete a volunteer application form on our website: