Calling all readers, writers, and book lovers! If language, literature, and the humanities are important to you, consider volunteering at these nonprofit organizations.
Literacy continues to be an ongoing crisis in the United States. A 2011 Department of Education study found that one in seven adults—or a staggering thirty-two million Americans—demonstrated below basic literacy levels. Volunteering even an hour a week of your time can have a significant impact on these rates, changing lives and supporting underprivileged communities.
We’ve compiled a list of volunteer opportunities from a wide range of literary and literacy organizations that will help you get involved in your community. There are opportunities for everyone, whether you want to work with children, record audiobooks from the comfort of your home, participate in literary festivals, or lend a hand with planning and fund-raising. Get involved and make a difference today!
Volunteers with Reach Out and Read read to children in waiting rooms and hospitals around the country. Volunteering is easy, since every state has at least one pediatric center participating in Reach Out and Read!
Read to a Child partners volunteers with at-risk elementary school students. The Lunchtime Reading Program boosts literacy skills and builds valuable mentor relationships.
Record an audiobook for a good cause: Learning Ally volunteers record audiobooks and textbooks to provide essential educational materials to the ten million American students who struggle with learning disabilities and visual impairment. LibriVox harnesses volunteer voices to create a free and accessible online library of public domain books.
First Book provides free books and educational resources to low-income communities, working to close the achievement gap and improve national access to quality education. Join community-based volunteer programs across the nation that help raise funds to support First Book’s mission.
Reading Is Fundamental offers a host of volunteer opportunities across the nation. Make an impact in the lives of children by becoming a registered literacy advocate, mentoring at a local school, or hosting a book drive.
Reading Partners helps students who may be up to two years behind their grade reading level. Volunteers guide students through lessons designed to improve reading, writing, and comprehension.
Volunteer as an after-school tutor or a writing workshop leader at 826 National, an organization dedicated to helping under-resourced kids improve their writing.
Schools on Wheels provides academic tutoring to homeless and displaced children in southern California. Their program offers a variety of volunteer opportunities, from online and group tutoring to individual and peer tutoring.
Jumpstart works to improve literacy from a preschool level. Become a member of the volunteer corps and make a difference in a child’s life.
If tutoring children isn’t for you, ProLiteracy is an organization that helps adults gain the essential literacy skills to improve their lives.
Support Writers and Literature
Volunteering at local literary festivals is a great way to get involved in a community of like-minded readers and writers. Most literary festivals rely heavily on volunteers, so your chosen role could vary in responsibility from planning and fund-raising to on-site assistance. Book festivals take place all over the country. Notable examples include Oregon’s Portland Book Festival, New York’s Brooklyn Book Festival, California’s Bay Area Book Festival, Texas’s Poetry at Round Top, and Virginia’s Fall for the Book.
Lambda Literary promotes and supports LGBTQ+ literature. The organization welcomes volunteers to help with some digital and online needs, including building and updating databases and editing and uploading video and still footage.
National Novel Writing Month, or NaNoWriMo, is a nonprofit that helps writers complete the task of writing a whole novel within the month of November. Volunteers can work at their camps and writing programs in San Francisco. However, if you’re not in the Bay Area, you can volunteer online as a NaNoWriMo ambassador.
VIDA Women in Literary Arts is dedicated to raising awareness of women’s writing and promoting transparency around current gender issues that exist in literary culture. Volunteers work remotely and provide online support.
Photo by Steven L. Shepard, via Flickr.