716.651.0465 | Airport Commerce Park | 303 Cayuga Rd., Suite 180 | Cheektowaga, NY 14225

History and Strategic Milestones


For more than 50 years, Literacy New York has worked with community based literacy programs to restore hope to a group of people that went unnoticed—and unserved—for decades.

In past years, illiteracy was a little discussed social issue. Those who struggled kept it secret—and most people never realized that a problem existed.

That changed in 1962 when Ruth Colvin of Syracuse read a report that stated 11,000 adults in her county could not read or write at a functional level. Spurred to action, Ruth launched Literacy Volunteers of America to train community members as volunteer tutors to teach adults to read. The Literacy Volunteers model spread across New York State.

Growth of the program was explosive. The recognition that illiteracy was a problem that affected every segment of society dawned on people throughout the US.

In 1974, Literacy Volunteers of America - New York State was founded.  In 2001, we expanded our work to include support for adult education teachers in NYS Dept. of Education adult ed programs.  In 2004. we changed our name to Literacy New York. Our goal has always been to serve adults and families who are most in need of literacy services. We achieve this goal by ensuring the effective delivery of quality adult literacy services in New York State.


Literacy New York encourages and supports community-based literacy programs, providing:

  • Workshops
  • Tutor Training
  • Technical Assistance
  • Curriculum Development
  • Program Development
  • Leadership Development


We partner with many organizations to initiate new programs to meet emerging literacy needs. Projects Include:




Through working with a network of community based adult literacy providers and adult education programs, Literacy New York has touched the lives of tens of thousands of adults in our nearly 50 years of work in this field.  The students our providers serve often start their process nervous and shaky, tentatively set their personal goals and then proudly achieve them. Thousands of students have attained their high school equivalency diplomas, obtained jobs, advanced to better jobs, left the welfare system, become engaged in their communities, passed their citizenship tests and in many instances, gone on to college. Literacy NY's services bolster the abilities of literacy practitioners and providers, enabling them to produce such positive outcomes.