In life, we are always learning. Learning begins with the ability to read and share information with each other. Then we work to understand what we are reading and saying and apply it to our goals.

Throughout Shelby County, TN, Shelby Literacy Center makes learning safe and open with personalized tutoring, classes, and events. With trained volunteers and professional teachers, we listen to you share what you want to learn and help you learn it.


Our newest program works with children who often get lost in the cracks of education – our middle schoolers. These 4th-8th graders struggle with reading at a time when they need to read to learn. Many of our children have a learning, attention, or processing challenge like ADHD or dyslexia.

We support our students with one-on-one multi-sensory structured literacy so they can feel confident in their reading, begin to enjoy reading, and stay in school. We help their parents better understand why reading is difficult and how to make it easier at home and at school.

  • Children who don’t read proficiently in 3rd grade are 4x more likely to drop out than their peers.
  • 74% of 3rd graders who read poorly still struggle in 9th grade.
  • Black and Hispanic children not reading proficiently in 3rd grade are twice as likely as similar white children to not graduate from high school.
  • 53% of 4th graders read recreationally “almost every day,” while only 20% of 8th graders said the same.
  • 70% of incarcerated adults can’t read above a fourth grade level.
  • 75% of Americans who receive food stamps perform at the lowest 2 levels of literacy, and 90% of high school dropouts are on welfare.
  • The rate of low literacy in the United States directly costs the healthcare industry over $70 million every year.
  • 1 in 5 children have a hidden learning challenge and may need to see material up to 25 times more than another children
  • Of adults 18 to 24 years of age, the literary reading rate decreased from nearly 60 percent in 1982 to 43 percent in 2002 – a drop of 17 percentage points.
  • A smaller percentage of 13- and 17-year-olds read for fun daily in 1999 than in 1984.
  • A smaller percentage of 17-year-olds saw adults reading in their homes in 1999 than in 1984.
  • Children of adults with low literacy skills are 72% more likely to be at a low reading level in school
  • Students who are behind typically make only one year’s worth of progress at each grade level, keeping them behind their classmates throughout school and making them more likely to repeat grades
  • Illiteracy is a major factor in whether adolescents graduate from high school. One in 6 high school students — or about 1.2 million teens — drop out each year
  • For most students, the process of dropping out begins in middle school, when Johns Hopkins researcher Dr. Robert Balfanz says the habits that predict whether or not a student graduates are formed, making it a critical “make or break” period.



Adults from other countries may know more than one language, but struggle with English. We work with adults who are English Speakers of Other Languages, from their very first words in English all the way through citizenship and career advancement. Our structured classes include speaking, reading, writing, and listening. Our volunteer-led conversation times practice everyday conversation. Events allow for students to share their culture and meet others in Memphis to make friends and gain community.


With themed family literacy months, we bridge together our families of children who are struggling and our ESOL students, in addition to our Shelby County community at-large, to learn about the skills we all need. We focus on health, money and finances, technology and media, car repair, voting and civics, and other life skills. When we know more, we can do more, together.