The Literacy Council of Alaska has provided literacy instruction to adults and children in Fairbanks since 1973. During the first year, nine students received instruction (tutoring) from twelve community volunteers. Today, even with its dedicated staff, LCA's programs rely heavily on volunteers. Each year, approximately 350 to 400 volunteers tutor either adults or children. In the past year, LCA promoted literacy-based services for over 1,100 adults and children in the Fairbanks area.
LCA: One-on-One Tutoring since 1973!
LCA began in 1973 as a totally volunteer tutoring program in the founder Ellen Case’s home providing one-on-one tutoring in Basic Reading, Writing & Math, and English as a Second Language to a small group of students.
Within two years, LCA had moved to the top floor of the First Methodist Church, became a non-profit corporation, received a Right-to-Read grant, began training Laubach certified tutors in Fairbanks, and had matched many adult students with trained tutors.
In the following years, LCA faced a similar problem to that experienced by literacy councils across the country—very little beginning reading material was available for adults. To solve this problem, LCA offered writing classes and produced it’s own high interest, low level reading materials for adult students. The Cross Age Tutoring Program began in 1985. Designed and run by two dedicated teachers, this program is still offered each summer, matching teen tutors with grade school kids needing help in reading, writing and math. Through a special grant, LCA developed the ‘Parents and Tots Reading Program’ that was declared a ‘Promising Practice’ nationally and was an early version of the Even Start Program that is a primary part of the current Family Literacy Program.
In 1994, LCA worked with Adult Learning Programs of Alaska to create a Computer Literacy Lab. With the donation of computers from the Rotary Club of Alaska and help of AmeriCorps volunteers, one room in the Carol Brice Center was set-up and curriculum was created. People needing help or instruction on computers could walk in during lab hours and receive free instruction. The program was used heavily until 2002.
LCA has received many different grants as well as the support of United Way, corporate donors, individual donors, and service organizations. With grant funding declining nationwide, fundraising events such as the Biz Bee, the Great Cover-up and the Golden Mile Run have become more and more necessary in order to continue providing services.
Forget-Me-Not Recycled Bookstore Development
Magic 101 began sponsoring an annual Book Drive for us in March 2001 to collect kid’s books for the families in our programs. At the same time, the Board of Directors began talking about finding a larger building so that all of LCA’s programs could be in the same location. The Adult Program, School Age Program and Administration had been in a little yellow house on 3rd Avenue since 1986. The Family Literacy Program and the Computer Lab were in the Brice Center on Gillam Way. We looked at many buildings but could not find one to fit within our limited budget.
The March 2004 Book Drive was so successful that the LCA had no place to store the extra books that had been donated! The Literacy Council was aware that grant funds would be reduced again, but the demand for LCA services was increasing and the space was becoming more crowded. The dream emerged to open a bookstore to help fund LCA programs, but there was no room for one.
Then the Food Bank offered the building at 517 Gaffney Road for a reasonable rental amount. After much renovation and hundreds of hours of volunteer and staff labor, LCA’s programs moved into the building in November of 2004. On February 19, 2005, Forget-Me-Not Books opened for business and has been maintained and operated primarily by volunteers since that date.
The Latest Additions
While in the little yellow house on 3rd Avenue, LCA had a Computer Recycling Program, taking donated computers and refurbishing them for student use. The program has grown since the move to Gaffney Road, and in 2007, LCA became a certified Microsoft Authorized Refurbishing Program. This program enables LCA the privilege of installing Microsoft 2000 or XP on used computers to be given away to low income Alaskans and non-profits who wouldn’t otherwise have access to such technology.
- In 2007, the current Executive Director Mike Kolasa was hired, and the LCA became involved in the Guys Read Program. This program brings male role models into the classroom to read out loud to grade school boys for several weeks out of the year, showing them that reading can be fun.
- In Fall 2008 LCA received a Head Start Innovation and Improvement Project Grant from the Administration for Children and Families and the Head Start Lending Libraries program was developed.
- In Fall 2009 LCA established the School Age Program.
The Literacy Council of Alaska continues to build and grow as lives are changed through literacy.