About Literacy Suffolk

Our mission and adult literacy in Suffolk County

Literacy Suffolk believes that the ability to read, write, and communicate effectively is critical to personal freedom, economic betterment, and the maintenance of a democratic society.

Our trained volunteers work with adults who need to improve their English speaking, reading, and writing skills so that they can find employment or a better job, help their children in school, build better communities, and participate in our nation’s life in countless ways that literate people take for granted. 


The National Literacy Act defines literacy as “an individual’s ability to read, write, and speak in English, compute, and solve problems at levels of proficiency necessary to function on the job and in society, to achieve one’s goals, and to develop one’s knowledge and potential.”​

Literacy and Suffolk County

By that definition, about one in seven Suffolk County adults is illiterate, according to the National Center for Education Statistics. This affects their employment opportunities. In fact, about 30 percent of Literacy Suffolk students are unemployed.

Since its founding in 1978, Literacy Suffolk has helped long-time residents and immigrants from 47 countries through programs for Basic Literacy Learners (BLL) and English Language Learners (ELL). BLL are native-English speakers who read and write below a sixth-grade level. ELL are mostly focused on mastering basic conversational English, though many also want to improve their reading and writing in English.

Today, most of our students are recent immigrants from Latin America, Turkey, and Korea. Some students are refugees, and more than 80 percent are women. 

Literacy Suffolk's activities and outcomes

  • Provides free one-to-one and small group literacy tutoring.
  • Recruits and matches adult learners and volunteers.
  • Trains volunteer tutors and testers and provides support through literacy materials, in-service workshops, and tutor support groups. 
  • Increases public awareness of literacy through outreach, partnerships with libraries and other community organizations, and county literacy initiatives.
Remote tutoring

Literacy Suffolk recently partnered with SEPA Mujer, an organization that advocates for and empowers Latina immigrants on Long Island, to provide English language classes to victims of domestic violence through a U.S. Department of Justice grant.  

During the COVID pandemic, Literacy Suffolk continued to match tutors with students needing their help. Tutors learned how to use Zoom and other remote learning platforms to continue offering one-on-one personalized instruction to their students.  Today, most tutoring sessions are in person.

Our outcomes

With the language skills they obtained through Literacy Suffolk, students have entered the workforce and advanced in their jobs. 

For many, literacy was the first step in working towards a high school equivalency diploma or earning U.S. citizenship. Other students have gone on to start their own businesses and become community leaders. Two former students have served on Literacy Suffolk’s Board of Directors.

Workplace literacy

In response to the growing number of small businesses in Suffolk County experiencing communication barriers with employees whose native language is not English, Literacy Suffolk has developed a workplace literacy program to build job-related literacy and basic skills.

Trained tutors lead small-group learning exercises on the job site in workplace terminology, understanding instructions, health and safety issues, interpersonal skills, and American culture, among other topics. 

Employers find that employees who participate in the program are more productive and have a higher degree of self-esteem. 

Workplace Literacy photo

Literacy Suffolk's history

Founded in 1978 by the Suffolk Cooperative Library System (SCLS), Literacy Suffolk is an accredited affiliate of ProLiteracy America and an affiliate of Literacy New York. Literacy Suffolk is funded by the New York State Department of Education, library literacy grants, SCLS, county and town grants, foundations, corporations, and individual donors.