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

History and Strategic Milestones


"Learning to read is probably the most difficult and revolutionary thing that happens to the human brain and if you don't believe that, watch an illiterate adult try to do it."

― John Steinbeck


For more than 40 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, soon after becoming the national organization known as Literacy Volunteers of America.

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 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
  • Technical Assistance
  • Curriculum Development
  • Program Development
  • Leadership Development


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

  • Development of a state and national Learning to Achieve training team
  • Intake to Outcomes (I2O) online training program

As well as many other projects with national adult literacy groups and with the NYS Regional Adult Education Networks (RAENs).


Literacy New York was an early adopter of the the National Reporting System for Adult Education (NRS), an outcome-based reporting system for State-administered, federally funded adult education programs. Developed by the U.S. Department of Education's Division of Adult Education and Literacy (DAEL), the NRS tracks learner outcomes for all participants. LNY has enforced NRS standards among affiliates since 2007 and will continue to help programs adhere to accountability standards set by New York State.

Through working with a network of community based adult literacy providers, Literacy New York has touched the lives of tens of thousands of adults in our 40 plus years. We haven't just touched peoples' lives—in many instances, we have transformed them. Such is the power of literacy. 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. LNY's services bolster the abilities of the individual agencies, enabling them to produce such positive outcomes.