How to Market Your Literacy or Language Program (Free 5-part video series)

May 30, 2011

I’m happy to share this 5-part video series that was recorded live at the 2010 Spotlight on Learning Conference, held in Toronto, Canada by the Ontario Literacy Coalition.

I did a one-hour presentation on how to promote literacy and language programs. The conference organizers videotaped the session and are sharing it publicly. You can consider this a one-hour crash course in marketing:

Low-cost High-Impact Marketing for Literacy Programs – Part 1

Low-cost High-Impact Marketing for Literacy Programs – Part 2

Low-cost High-Impact Marketing for Literacy Programs – Part 3

Low-cost High-Impact Marketing for Literacy Programs – Part 4

Low-cost High-Impact Marketing for Literacy Programs – Part 5

Related posts:


Share this post: How to Market Your Literacy or Language Program (Free 5-part video series)

Update – January 2018 – This blog has had over 1.8 million views thanks to readers like you. If you enjoyed this post, please “like” it or share it on social media. Thanks!

Sarah Elaine Eaton is a faculty member in the Werklund School of Education, University of Calgary, Canada.

27 Ways to Celebrate Family Literacy Day

January 12, 2011

January 27 is Family Literacy Day. Here are 27 ways to celebrate, categorized according to Canada’s 9 Literacy and Essential Skills.

by Dr. Sarah Elaine Eaton

Reading text

1. Read to your child or children. A book. A graphic novel. Anything that sparks interest. The important thing is to enjoy the activity of reading together. Make it fun and give them the gift of reading that will last a lifetime.

2. Have your child or children read to you. They pick the material or you pick it. Doesn’t matter. Just get them reading. Listen intently. Nod your head to show you are paying attention. Ask a few questions after the reading has finished to show interest and curiosity.

3. Read a newspaper article as a family. Critique and evaluate the article together, talking about its meaning, content, and bias. Each member of the family reads the entire article or take turns reading sections of it aloud around the dinner table.

Document use

4. Read and understand nutritional labels. As a family become conscious of what you are eating today by checking out the nutritional labels on the food products you eat. Understanding information from tables is one aspect of document use.

5. Use transportation schedules to plan an outing. Whether it’s a trip to your local zoo or a visit to Disney World, gather together bus or plane schedules, find out how much things cost and the hours of operation of places you want to visit. Gathering information from schedules is another aspect of document use.

6. Read an instruction manual to achieve a goal. Is there something sitting around your house that has yet to be opened or built? Today’s the day! Instead of seeing instruction manuals as a “last resort”, teach your family that they can be helpful. Challenge them to read through a set of instructions to build or assemble something for your home. Understanding and using the instructive information and blueprints is also an important aspect of document use.


7. Plan an home renovation project. Have you been thinking about improving your kitchen? Updating one of the children’s bedrooms? Get out a tape measure and start taking some measurements!

8. Calculate what you’ll need for your project. How much paint do you need to cover the surface area of the walls you want to paint? How much laminate do you need to buy for a new living room floor?

9. Set a budget for your project. Now that you’ve figured out how much of each material you need, you can calculate a budget for your project as a family. Calculate what the project will cost you and how much you can allot to each type of material.

You don’t have to go out and buy all these things, but learning how to take measurements and calculate what you’ll need are important numeracy skills.


10. Write a letter to a loved one far away. Letter writing is a dying art. Teach your family the value of knowing how to put pen to paper to maintain family connections. Have each member of the family write one paragraph to someone special who lives far away. After the letter is written, prepare the envelope together by having one person write the recipient’s address and another person write the return address on the envelope.

11. Write an e-mail as a family. Like writing on paper, knowing how to put words on a screen using a word processing or e-mail program is an important part of document use. Write an e-mail to a family member with an upcoming birthday. Avoid “text talk” such as writing “u” instead of “you”. For this family e-mail, use proper words and full sentences. You can always save the e-mail to the drafts folder if the birthday is a few days away.

12. Fill out applications together. Does everyone in the family have a passport? If not, fill out passport applications together. Help an aspiring college student with an application to a post-secondary institution. Learning to fill out forms correctly is an important skill that you can build together as a family.

Oral communication

For activities that focus on oral communication, make it a “no technology” time, so family members learn to listen to one another, rather than checking their texts or playing video games during times when the focus is on speaking and listening. Tech time comes later. For these activities, put the phones, iPods and other mobile devices aside and concentrate on one another.

13. Share updates. Around the dinner table, have each person give an update on their day, as well as upcoming events such as games, school events or important work meetings. Challenge everyone to avoid slang and speak in full sentences. Other family members practice active listening, nodding and responding with questions that express interest and curiosity.

14. Have a family debate. Pick a topic that every family member can contribute to. It may be a political issue or where you want to go for your next family vacation. Have each family member make a case for their point of view and try to persuade the others. The point isn’t to win or have a heated argument, but rather to construct excellent verbal arguments and listen to one another without interrupting.

15. Solve a problem. As a family, talk about a problem you want to solve. It can be anything from how to organize the front hall closet better to deciding what movie to see on Friday night. A “problem” does not necessarily have to be emotionally charged. Once you learn how to solve simple problems, larger ones become easier, too. The general formula is Problem -> Action -> Result. What is the problem you want to solve? Why does it need to be solved? What actions will you take to solve it? Describe the actions step-by-step. Finally, talk about the results you expect. What will happen because of the actions you take? Human Resources and Skills Development offers a free tip sheet on using oral communication to solve problems.

Working with others

16. Play a game. Choose a game that you can play independently, in pairs or in teams. Board games such as Risk or Settlers of Catan are good choices. Play one round with individual players and one round in pairs or teams. Become aware of the differences of working alone versus working with others.

17. Plan a family meeting. What will you talk about? Who will lead the discussion? It is OK for leadership to rotate or for different people to take the lead on different aspects of the meeting. What do you want out of the meeting? How much time will you spend on each item? Learning to plan and actively participate in meetings is an important aspect of working with others.

18. Talk about the personality types in your family. Are you a “Type A” personality? A “Type B”? A “Type C”? or a “Type D”? Most people have an idea what a “Type A” is, but the others are not always so clear. Print off this tip sheet from Human Resources and Skills Development Canada and share it with your family. Which personality types do members of your family relate to? What are the benefits of each? How can you learn to appreciate one another’s preferences without judgment or wanting them to be more like you?

Continuous learning

19. Attend a workshop or a course as a family. Spend a day learning how to snowboard or take a cooking class together. Have family members put suggestions into a hat for a topic or subject they’d like to suggest to the family. Select randomly. Figure out where you can find a course on that topic and register the whole family.

20. Go to a local interpretive centre or museum. Some communities have interpretive centres in parks which are free of charge. Learn about your community, local wildlife or other topics.

21. Have family members teach each other a skill. Make it simple and easy to learn in an afternoon. Topics such as “How to post a picture to Facebook”, “How to balance a cheque book” or “How iron a dress shirt” are good examples. Take turns having each family member teach a simple skill to everyone else. Others must practice the new skill and demonstrate that they have made an honest attempt to learn. Use this as an opportunity to practice Working with Others, by offering and receiving constructive and helpful feedback.

Thinking skills

Thinking skills are often used in conjunction with other essential skills. These skills involve identifying and diagnosing problems, researching, and using information to make decisions.

22. Plan a family outing. In addition to using schedules to plan transportation, research where you will go and what you will do when you get there. Use your numeracy skills to plan a budget for the outing.

23. Research materials for your home reno project. For example: What are the benefits of each type of paint (egg shell, semi-gloss, gloss, etc.)? Which is best for your home reno project? Why? Determine what the various types of paint are and either individually or in pairs, have family members choose one type of paint and research the benefits. Visit a local hardware store as a family and talk to a paint expert. Use the information you’ve researched to make an informed decision.

24. Do some consumer research. Are you planning to buy something as a family? A new toy? An appliance? Teach your family the basics of consumer research, by showing them how to research products and services, compare similar products, understand consumer reviews and learn about bias in research. Which store offers the best price for the product you are looking at? Can you order it on line for less money? If you can order it on line, use your numeracy skills to factor in shipping and handling to determine the final price. Check out the Canadian Consumer Handbook and use it to inform your research.

Computer use

25. Learn keyboard shortcuts. Whether you use a PC or a Mac there are tons of shortcuts to help make your computer use more efficient. Check out this Tip Sheet for a few ideas. Have family members share their favorite computer shortcuts. Post them on the fridge. Quiz each other over dinner.

26. Have a Family Play Date with technology. Learn how to use a video game controller by playing video games. Start a family game of Scrabble on line. Incorporating play into technology and computer use can reduce anxiety and make it much more enjoyable. Focus on the fun and learning. Allow those with high technology literacy to lead the way in teaching and facilitating. When you get frustrated, just laugh and try again. It’s not about being perfect, it’s about sharing time together as a family.

27. Improve your “mobile literacy”. Do the teenagers in your world know how to do all kinds of things with their cell phones and other mobile devices, but you’ve been left behind in the 20th century dust? All cell phones today have texting capability. Have a young person teach you how to text or show you how to do it more efficiently. If you already know how to text, learn how to send a text long distance, send a photo or a web page link, or Tweet using your phone. Digital literacy doesn’t stop at your desktop. Asking a young person or a “techie”  in your family for help with technology is a great way to involve them in literacy.

Click here for more information on Literacy and Essential Skills.

Download this post as a free e-booklet from Scribd:

View this document on Scribd


Related posts:

Share this post! Feel free to repost this article to your own blog or website. You can link to it or copy and paste the text. All I ask is that you leave the author by-line at the top of the article.

Short link for Tweeting or Sharing: 27 Ways to Celebrate Family Literacy Day

Update – January 2018 – This blog has had over 1.8 million views thanks to readers like you. If you enjoyed this post, please “like” it or share it on social media. Thanks!

Sarah Elaine Eaton is a faculty member in the Werklund School of Education, University of Calgary, Canada.

11 Ways to Promote Your Literacy Program

January 5, 2011

I’m sharing 11 of my top tips to market and promote literacy! These tips are for literacy organizations, programs and other non-profits who focus on literacy.

1. Tweet! – Don’t have a Twitter account yet? Get one – and learn how to use it. Follow other literacy programs. Ask your members to follow you. Don’t just ask for donations in tweets. (In fact, I’d say never ask for donations via Twitter, but that’s just me.) Interact, retweet, have fun.

2. Get a Facebook page – Ask your members to like your page. Post notes, learner success stories, policy news and other tidbits of interest for those who are fans of what you’re doing.

3. Get business cards for your staff – Cards have been used for both personal and business use for over a century now. I am amazed how many literacy programs don’t have cards for their staff. Really, you can’t afford not to have business cards for the people who work for you.

4. Update your website – Are you still using a website that you can’t update yourself? You want a crisp, clean looking site that uses a content management system that allows you to update your site yourself. Remember to use your logo and “brand” your website.

5. Get a YouTube Channel – Post slideshows, “how to” videos, learner success stories and testimonials. Video is part of 21st century marketing. YouTube has an excellent program for nonprofits that’s worth checking out.

6. Collect stories and testimonials – Get learners to share their success stories using audio or video. Use their stories on your website and YouTube channel. Collect one learner testimonial per month and by the end of the year you will have a dozen success stories that will help you promote the good work you do.

7. Set marketing goals – If you can collect one testimonial per month, by the end of the year, you have twelve. What else can you do every month to promote literacy? Set specific, measurable and realistic goals, share them, post them and refer back to them throughout the year.

8. Accept donations and membership fees on line – If you’re not already accepting donations using PayPal or some other online method, now is the time to set it up. Have links from your website. People should be able to join your organization or make a donation with the click of the button. Build it and they will come.

9. Connect with local authors to promote literacy. Collaborate with local authors / bookstores for reading events. At least every other month have the event in your space to get people through your door. Authors can do book signings and read from their books. Sell books and share the revenue.

10. Plan a celebration of learning and literacy – Showcase the success of your learners. Invite funders, members and supporters of your organization and local politicians who champion literacy. Send out press releases and get it catered.

11. Take an asset-based approach to marketing – Focus on the good work you’re doing, the positive impact your work is making and the resources you have. Find creative ways to highlight your successes.


Related post: 27 Ways to Celebrate Family Literacy Day

Share or Tweet this post:  11 ways to promote your literacy program

Update – January 2018 – This blog has had over 1.8 million views thanks to readers like you. If you enjoyed this post, please “like” it or share it on social media. Thanks!

Sarah Elaine Eaton is a faculty member in the Werklund School of Education, University of Calgary, Canada.


A comprehensive list of marketing resources for language and literacy programs

August 26, 2010

I’ve put together a Diigo list of online resources to help you market your language programs better. Many of them are articles I’ve written over the years, and there are resources from a few other people in there, too. These resources are mostly free, online resources.

This list is specifically targeted for language schools and literacy programs. You won’t find links here to general marketing sites. I’ve used laser-like precision to build a list just for language school administrators, language program marketers, literacy program directors, language teachers and literacy advocates.

If you know of a great resource, please send a comment and if it fits in with the list, I’ll be happy to add it!


Share or Tweet this post: A comprehensive list of marketing resources for language and literacy programs

Update – January 2018 – This blog has had over 1.8 million views thanks to readers like you. If you enjoyed this post, please “like” it or share it on social media. Thanks!

Sarah Elaine Eaton is a faculty member in the Werklund School of Education, University of Calgary, Canada.

A picture says a thousand words: Tap into the world of stock photos

August 2, 2010

A while ago I did a post on photo tips and ideas for language and literacy programs. In that post I gave some ideas on the types of things you can take pictures to marketing and promote your language and literacy program.

Really though, unless you have someone on staff who was has excellent photography skills, your photos may lack professionalism. Using stock photography has some advantages for marketing. Not only are you guaranteed to get excellent quality, royal-free images, you also don’t have to worry about getting students or their parents to sign waivers allowing you to use their image to promote your school.

There are a number of companies out there that offer stock photos, as well as images and sometimes audio tracks, too. Either you buy credits which allow you to purchase photos on a pay-as-you-go type of arrangement, or you buy a subscription for a certain period of time. Buying credits is a good way to test out the system for not very much money, just to learn how it works.

Once you get to the site, type in a key word that matches the image of what you’re trying to portray. You’ll usually get thousands of images, some of which will work and others won’t. Words I’ve used for marketing ESL and EFL programs include “multicultural”, “students”, “international”, “school” and so forth. Get creative with your key words if the results aren’t giving you what you’re looking for.

  • Getty Images
  • Jupiter Images
  • Fotolia
  • iStock – The photo from this post is from iStock. Every week they offer a freebie for members. This particular freebie was very appropriate for languages and literacy, so how could I resist?

The size of the photo you buy depends on what you are using it for. For website use only, you can get away with smaller images. If you’re using them in printed materials such as brochures, school prospectuses, etc. then you’ll want a higher quality image.

Once you’ve purchases the rights to a photo, you can use it for a variety of purposes, providing you stay within the agreements. For example, don’t go and re-sell the image by putting it on merchandise such as coffee cups or T-shirts that you charge money for.

Some people have said to me that using stock photos seems insincere because the subjects aren’t real students or staff from your school. That is true. It is one trade off of using pro quality stock photos. Ultimately you need to decide what you want – and can – do for yourself. Also, have a look at what your competitors are using in their photos. If their images are pro quality, you may be looking at stock photos.

For me, using stock photos for at least some of your marketing materials, is a good investment of resources.

Do you have a favorite site for photos that’s not listed here? Leave a comment, so others can find out about it, too.


Likes this post? Share or Tweet it: A picture says a thousand words: Tap into the world of stock photos

Update – January 2018 – This blog has had over 1.8 million views thanks to readers like you. If you enjoyed this post, please “like” it or share it on social media. Thanks!

Sarah Elaine Eaton is a faculty member in the Werklund School of Education, University of Calgary, Canada.

%d bloggers like this: