Houston Center for Literacy: At the Center of Progress

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Learn about Houston Center for Literacy

In 1984, Mayor Kathy Whitmire and the City Council established Houston Center for Literacy (HCL) with one goal in mind: to raise the adult literacy rates in Houston. HCL works toward this goal by supporting literacy organizations and programs, engaging the entire community to join us in solving our city's low-literacy problem, and connecting learners with the education they need to be prepared for the future.


HCL acts as the Mayor's liaison to literacy programming in Houston by supporting the Mayor's Coalition for Literacy, an association of 60 organizations offering literacy services. We distribute the annual Mayor's Challenge Grant to accredited literacy organizations across the city, and provide professional development courses, classroom resources, best practices, and volunteer recruitment and placement.   

Our demonstration learning centers are another way HCL supports literacy programs. While HCL is not a literacy provider in the traditional sense, we operate three full-time demonstration literacy centers - San Jose, Denver Harbor and Magnolia - in areas of Houston where the need is high. Our centers are not only free of charge for learners, but they are also open to literacy providers to learn best practices. Organizations interested in starting a literacy center can observe classes, get lesson plans, and gain access to supplies by making an appointment to visit one of our centers. 


Another important aspect of HCL's mission is to engage the community. We accomplish this by raising awareness about the effects of low-literacy and advocating on the city, state, and national levels for policy change that will increase resources and funding for adult literacy. HCL is an active participant in literacy events across Greater Houston. 


There are many ways HCL connects our community to literacy services. Houston Center for Literacy has given the United Way of Greater Houston special access to its literacy provider directory, expanding the citywide 2-1-1 HELPLINE's directory and its knowledge of literacy services in the Houston area. Additionally, HCL works with businesses around Houston to procure in-kind resources, such as computers, books, and office supplies for our member organizations. Further, we connect literacy providers to other organizations offering similar services, through our monthly provider meetings and e-communication. 


Mission Statement

The mission of Houston Center for Literacy is to lead and mobilize a coalition of literacy providers and resources to improve the literacy landscape of Houston.


Why We Exist

Houston's staggering low-literacy statistics have significant implications on the city's wellbeing now and in the future, including our workforce, the lives of many families, as well as the safety of all of our citizens.

Houston's Low-Literacy Statistics: 

  • 1 in 5 Harris county residents lacks basic literacy skills, up from 1 in 7 in 1992. (U.S. Department of Education, Institute of Education Sciences, National Center for Education Statistics, 2003 National Assessment of Adult Literacy)

  • Of the 75 most populous cities in the United States, Houston was recently ranked #60, with #75 being the least literate. In 2005, Houston ranked #53. (Central Connecticut State University, 2011)

  • Immigrants who are proficient in English earn between 13-24 % more than non-English proficient immigrants. (Migration Policy Institute, Adult English Language Instruction in the United States: Determining Need and Investing Wisely (2007)).

About Our Name Change: Houston Center for Literacy, at the center of progress

For almost 30 years, our organization has been serving the Houston community. As we work to create a more literate Houston, our organization's mission has become increasingly important to our city's future. In order to better communicate our message, increase awareness of our mission, and define our identity, we recently changed our name from Houston READ Commission to Houston Center for Literacy. The organization's new name and logo reflect the mission to engage, connect, and support literacy providers as the Houston Center for Literacy is at the center of progress to create a more literate Houston.  



Who We Are

Houston Center for Literacy,
a 501(c)3 non-profit organization, is working to improve literacy rates by connecting literacy providers and resources to support adult learners. 

Our Vision

HCL strives to create a literate, prepared workforce by building high capacity, effective and top performing literacy agencies and programs throughout the greater Houston area. This work is done through best practice and resource distribution, advocacy, and volunteer training and placement.

Looking for a Literacy Class?

Literacy providers throughout the Greater Houston area offer a variety of classes in adult basic education. Simply dial 2-1-1 to find a literacy provider near you or click the link below.

Find a Literacy Provider


We serve more than 60 literacy providers throughout the Greater Houston area.  Find one near you! 

Find a Literacy Provider


Click below for Houston Center for Literacy's upcoming events and provider meetings.

View Upcoming Events


Houston Center for Literacy advocates and raises awareness for public policies that strengthen the literacy landscape in Houston.

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Make a contribution to Houston's literacy today and help us build a stronger future for our city.

Ways to Give