In 2014 a new concept was initiated to help eradicate low literacy: Literacy Houses
To reach people with literacy difficulties, the concept of the Literacy House was developed. A Literacy House is an accessible location in a city that people can visit to work on basic skills such as reading, writing, speaking, numeracy and digital skills. Learners can simply go to this location to get information and/or support by both volunteers and professionals. A Literacy House may be incorporated in a library (which is the case for 80 % of the Literacy Houses). A Literacy House can be set up through a partnership between local actors and is supported by RWF. These partners vary by municipality or region.
Over the last few years, many instruments were developed to support the set-up, running and qualitative improvement of Literacy Houses. Please find an overview of these instruments below.
A range of figures and background information is available to help with the development of action plans for setting up a Literacy House and underscore the urgency of addressing functional illiteracy in such plans.
A factsheet providing the characteristics of the target group of people with literacy problems, as well as the latest findings regarding the impact of investing in countering functional illiteracy can be found here:
Much research is undertaken into the incidence, prevention, causes and effects of functional illiteracy. Did you know that there are 740,000 workers with literacy problems in the Netherlands? A selection of research papers can be accessed here:
When you’ve been assigned by your municipal council to establish a Literacy House facility (setting up a language lab, intakes, referral and monitoring), it is important to develop an action plan which outlines your approach, projected outcomes and joint ambitions. To determine these elements, together with the commissioning party, we provide you with the statistics on the number of people with literacy problems in your municipality or region:
The action plan includes a clear division of roles and tasks for each partner in the collaboration. We provide an overview of activities a Literacy House might take on.
A) Literacy House Volunteers
Based on an intake interview, a Literacy House refers people with low literacy skills to an appropriate course or activity. An intake is done by a NT1 or NT2 certified teacher or by a Literacy House volunteer, under supervision of such a qualified expert. Literacy House volunteers are well equipped for their responsibilities. They receive a basic training (more below) and a reception desk training. The latter trains them to refer clients to appropriate courses and helps improve their interview skills.
B) Literacy House Coordinator
The Literacy House coordinator fulfils a pivotal role within the Literacy House and its broader network. Literacy House coordinators employed by a library have the opportunity to take a course to qualify as a Basic Skills counsellor.
This 8- day training provides information regarding the social domain and looks at various client groups and their various needs, wishes and options. Attention is paid to staying in contact and effective collaboration. The course also seeks to improve knowledge of language levels and available materials.
Together with its partners, the Reading & Writing Foundation stages comeback courses to improve Literacy House coordinators’ expertise. For more information, contact the Reading & Writing Foundation at firstname.lastname@example.org.
C) Language volunteers
Literacy Houses also cater to volunteers interested in helping people with low literacy skills to improve their basic skills. This is a responsible task, and it is important that volunteers realize what they are signing up for. A Language Volunteer Checker (Taalvrijwilligerscheck) is available for volunteers who wish to determine whether this is something they’d like to pursue. This tool shows three situations which each give an impression of what it is like to work with people from different backgrounds.
Training for language volunteers
People with low literacy skills benefit the most from a course or activity with expert guidance and the right course materials. Before they start, language volunteers take a course to learn how to do this.
Volunteers may be offered a 4 half-days basic training, which will teach them how to help people with low literacy skills to learn how to read, write, speak, do numbers and work with a computer. They are also acquainted with the available teaching materials.
Volunteers interested in follow-on courses or acquiring specific skills to assist participants, may move on to additional training modules, including:
For more information on these modules and ordering them for your volunteers, please contact the Reading and Writing Foundation at email@example.com.
Once they’ve completedtheir basic training, volunteers may be directed to the VolunteerNetwork, where they can extend their knowledge and find further inspiration and materials to work with. They can choose subjects that they wish to learn more about, such as a film clip about tongue twister rhymes or an e-learning tool on ‘financial independence’. They can also sign up for a SpokenLanguage webinar.
D) Language counsellor or certified Literacy House Teacher
In many cases, there are certified teachers working at a Literacy House. One of their tasks is to support and train the language volunteers. Those wishing to teach the Basic Training or the follow-on modules, please contact the Reading & Writing Foundation at firstname.lastname@example.org.
TrainersNet is the digital platform for volunteer trainers, where they can find all the materials for teaching courses. Here, trainers are also kept informed about new developments, and it is a space to share experiences and ask questions.
TrainersNet provides trainers with a community and is pivotal in knowledge-sharing. Volunteer trainers with the Reading & Writing Foundation have exclusive access to TrainersNet.
After their basic training, volunteers have access to various teaching and study materials, both in hard copy and online, to get started with their low literacy clients. These materials may also be ordered for trained Literacy House volunteers.
Language for Life study materials are available for all (volunteer) organisations that work with the collaborative programme Language for Life. Organisations interested in using materials such as Success! and Get to Work! may order such materials online via the online lesmateriaal bestellen portal. For queries regarding the ordering of teaching materials, please send an email to email@example.com.
Resources for Educators Guide
A Resources for Educators Guide is available to help volunteers select appropriate learning materials for their clients. This guide contains basic language, digital and numerical literacy skills materials at various levels. It comprises a flow chart and a description of the available materials.
Basic Skills Taster Collection
The Basic Skills Taster Collection (Adviescollectie basisvaardigheden) complements the Resources for Educators Guide and comprises a broad selection of materials pertaining to basic skills, such as reference books for volunteers, reading materials for people with low literacy skills and study materials that people with low literacy skills may work with under the guidance of a teacher as well independently.
Basic Indicator Tools
Locating people with low literacy skills can be complicated. Certain groups have no trouble finding a Literacy House, others do. The Literacy House network will include partners who come across people with low literacy skills in their clinics and offices and may refer them to a Literacy House. Structural referral by these locations helps Literacy Houses reach more people. The Basic Indicator Tools allow for structural screening. Within 15 minutes at most, these easy-to-use tools can give an indication of whether an individual may be functionally illiterate and needs (language) tuition to move forward. We offer the following basic indicators tools:
For more information about these Basic Indicator Tools, please consult basismeters.nl.
The Language Explorer is a paper version of the basic indicator tool. It comprises a short text followed by six questions. It shows in 6 minutes whether a person is having difficulty reading. There are two separate Language Explorers: A Social Services Explorer and a Health Explorer.
For more information regarding the Language Explorers, please consult basismeters.nl.
Various communication materials can be ordered from the Reading & Writing Foundation, including banners, posters or flyer formats. Flyers can be tailored to local contexts with the assistance of local Language Ambassadors. For more information, please contact the Reading & Writing Foundation at firstname.lastname@example.org.
There is a national hotline for people wishing to improve their reading, writing, numeracy, computer or smartphone skills.
The hotline will ask the nearest Literacy House to get in touch for further assistance. The hotline number is 0800 023 44 44.
Be inspired by real-life cases that show how organisations work together at the local level to fight low literacy. Click on a province or photo to access examples of initiatives by your local council, library, care provider, social service or the employee insurance schemes implementing body UWV.
Read municipal councillors’ blogs on approaches and initiatives in their municipality.