Community Literacy Program

English 298 or 498 Seminar + English 491 Internship

In English 298/498 (5 credits) CLP students meet twice weekly on campus in a seminar focused on building community, understanding equity and difference, working effectively with each other and with K-12 students, exploring central challenges and opportunities for transformative public education, and examining the role of mindfulness, compassion and emotional intelligence in learning.  Students gain skill and confidence in using writing, discussion and presentation to develop and share their thinking, and to relate class and internship experience to their academic, personal, civic and career goals.  Students may register in one of two ways: English 298 is open to all UW students, and may be used toward either the “Composition” or “W” requirement.  English 498 is a Capstone for English Majors. 

In English 491B Internship (C/NC; 3 credits) you put what you learn on campus into action, volunteering (@4 hours a week, on a schedule you arrange, in schools one bus away from campus) at one of our partner public schools. English 491B will appear on your transcript as an internship, may be used toward the field work requirement or as an elective in the Education, Learning and Society Minor, as an elective in both the Education, Communities and Organizations (ECO) Major and the Early Childhood and Family Studies (ECFS Major), and toward field work requirements in some other departments. English 491B also provides documentation of school-based experience needed for application to Teacher Education programs.

Over 1100 students have participated in the Community Literacy Program since it began in 1992. CLP is one of the longest-running community-based ("service-learning") programs on our campus, and is also part of the Phoenix Project, a partnership including the UW English Department,  the UW College of Education, and Shoreline and Seattle Public Schools.  The Phoenix Project  is designed both to prepare future language arts teachers and to support K-12 language arts students. 

While many CLP students have gone on to work in education or related fields, CLP also appeals to students interested in experiential education, civic responsibility, a small workshop-based course, global citizenship, or a deeper connection to the Seattle community. Students often form strong bonds with the schools where they volunteer.  Many CLP students continue tutoring on their own after the quarter ends through independent study projects.

Curriculum | Participants | Schools | Training | Online Resources | Student Experiences | Contact


The Community Literacy Program offers a unique opportunity to combine academic research with experiential learning, bringing the two together through discussion, presentation and writing. Participants re-examine their own lives as students in addition to reading and writing about current issues in American education, such as the nature and purpose of schooling, Common Core State Standards, literacy, conflict and discipline, assessment and accountability, rapidly changing demographics, the nature and construction of "at risk" status, the importance of early childhood education and out-of-school literacy, and the role of civic engagement in public education. 

Short essays put readings and experience in creative critical dialogue, group projects focus on presenting and analyzing the programs where students volunteer, and on designing and teaching lessons to classmates on campus, individual projects allow students to define a subject for in-depth research, and a final career-related assignment is taught in partnership with the UW Career Center.  All major writing assignments are discussed in conferences with the instructor, and training in relevant research methods is provided by UW Education librarians.



The Community Literacy Program welcomes  students at any stage of their UW education, and from any department on campus. Past students have ranged from 18 to 67 years old, from first quarter freshmen to graduating seniors in majors including English, Psychology, Art, Math, Biology, Social Work, Biochemistry, Classics, Informatics, Communication, Economics and International Studies.   Students need not have tutored before, and need not be planning to become teachers.

Community Literacy Program is, however, an excellent way to satisfy the field work requirement for the Education, Learning and Society Minor, or to work toward classroom hours required for application to Masters in Teaching Programs.  CLP alumni have gone on to teach in many of the United States as well as in Brazil, Mexico, China and beyond.

Because of the frequent conferences and small class size for the Community Literacy Program, instruction is individualized.  Because of the combination of experiential and academic approaches, the program works well for students with a wide variety of learning styles.

In the Words of CLP Participants

CLP school site principal: "The Community Literacy students are full members of our school community by the second week of the quarter.... It is a pleasure to see how insightful they are, and how dedicated to the educational process they become. Elizabeth is caring and candid in working with her students and with me throughout each quarter so that we can collaborate on solving problems. Normal situational challenges become tools for learning for her students, as well as ours.  The benefits to our students are enormous.  Our faculty has come to depend on the Community Literacy students as true partners in teaching."

CLP student, Junior: "Since coming to the U.S., I have been afraid of taking English class because English is not my first language.  With this service learning class, I feel a lot more confidence in learning English.  By having the opportunity to work with bilingual students, I share their experience and I learn with them."

CLP partner school classroom teacher:  "My students love having a college student come into the classroom, especially since I am an older teacher.  They love the youth and energy.  They miss the CLP student when the time is over, but the benefit of having them in the classroom over-rides this problem."

CLP partner school classroom teacher: "This CLP volunteer has worked with me since last spring, and we are practically in a symbiotic relationship.  She works with small groups, she manages the entire class, she does a large amount of prep work and anticipates what is needed.  She is such a positive influence in my class and a help to me.  I'd be sunk without her."

CLP student: "I'm writing from my first teaching job to thank you for introducing me to foundational concepts in education, for sparking my passion for teaching, and for providing me with many practical lesson ideas."   

CLP partner student, first grade: "Dear [UW CLP student], thank you for all the hard work for us I apreachiat all the Science you taught us. I felt lerning all over me it felt like antennas growing on my head."

CLP student: "Community Literacy Program was truly an unparalleled success in my learning here at UW.  Never have I experienced a wider range of issues, attitudes, beliefs and people. My new-found appreciation for and understanding of education and society stems directly from my experience with CLP."  

CLP partner teacher: "In addition to the wonderful literacy support, having a college student in the classroom has been an inspiration to my kids.  I've heard more questions and excitement around going to college with the CLP student here than I have the whole rest of the year."


The English Department's Community Literacy Program and Phoenix Project work closely with partner public schools and programs in the Seattle and Shoreline districts.   Detailed information about school and program placements is updated each quarter. 

The Community Literacy Program's current partner schools include:  Olympic Hills Elementary, a "high needs" public K-5 school in Seattle's Lake City neighborhood representing diverse students (over 30 home languages are spoken at Olympic Hills) facing structural challenges (over 75% of students qualify for free/reduced price lunch); Shorecrest High School and Kellogg Middle School AVID programs (for potential first-generation college students), ELL programs, and Reading Intervention courses (for underprepared readers); and Franklin High School's ELL program.

Orientation and Training

Initial orientation for working with children is supplemented by training at the programs where students volunteer, through Community Literacy Program readings, workshops and curriculum, through ongoing mentoring by classroom teachers,  and through optional focus workshops offered through the UW Pipeline and Seattle All-City Tutor Trainings.

Throughout the quarter, CLP students have access to online resources for tutoring, and work closely with UW's Education Librarian to locate curriculum and research resources.  The CLP curriculum features ongoing discussion and problem-solving during class meetings, individual discussions with the instructor, and ongoing mentoring by the CLP Head Tutors both in class and at the CLP partner schools.

Online Resources

Visit the CLP Program Guide for links to online resources.

Student Experiences

"My eyes have been opened.  Many people don't realize the complexity; they just assume their kids go to school and things are good.  I am a different person because of this class."  --CLP Student, Senior, Business

Thank you "for introducing me to many foundational concepts and ideas in education, sparking my passion for teaching, and providing me with many practical lesson ideas as well." -- a CLP alumna in first year as a teacher

"Since the second quarter of my sophomore year, Community Literacy Program has developed my sense of belonging and my connection to other passionate tutors in this vast campus.... Apart from the theoretical support from the textbook and instructor, I am greatly motivated by my passion for growing with these young students. They quickly helped me get incorporated into the class, and as we read together, they fully understood that I might not be familiar with American children’s must-read books, and introduced them with great patience. Their eagerness to share what they have recently read and their writing assignments enriched my limited tutoring time....Volunteering in their class was the best decision I have made in my college career so far, and it will surely have inspiring and emotional impact on my study and attitude toward diverse perspectives."    -- CLP international student, Junior, Computer Science and Engineering

"CLP was truly an unparallelled success in my learning here at UW. Never have I experienced a wider range of issues, attitudes, beliefs and people.  My new found appreciation for and understanding of education and society stems directly from my experience with CLP and the help, guidance and motivation of Elizabeth."  -- CLP student, Junior, International Studies

"I would really like to convey how much I feel I have benefited from being a part of such a wonderful program.  I have made new friends, both at the university and at the elementary school.  I have built relationships with teachers, professors and administrators.  Most importantly, however, I have been exposed to diversity on various levels and seen the connection between part of my college experience and the real world, which I think is something that few college students experience. Often, I feel college students like myself find themselves simply going through the motions on their way to earning a degree.  The Community Literacy Program has provided me with real life application of material learned in the classroom, and classroom application of my life experience.  Being able to experience this during this stage of my life has helped change the way I think for the better, and for that I am truly blessed.”  -- CLP student, Senior, Comparative History of Ideas

"Throughout my years of experience working with children, this is the first time I have recorded meaningful experiences and thought about how those experiences will influence the future."  -- CLP student, Senior, Anthropology

"The combination of classroom experience and a wide variety of reflections really pulled everything together and made it feel extremely meaningful.  It made me fully aware of what I was learning and how, and the effect it was having on my work in the classrooms." -- CLP student, Senior, English

"By being out in the field and being part of a classroom community, I can better understand the issues discussed in our reading.  I am able to see how these issues are played out in the environment, and I have learned so much more from experiential learning than I could have from a textbook. [CLP students] are able to develop altruism and be concerned with social change; they are able to get the best of both worlds in community-service learning."
--CLP Student, Junior, Social Work

"The effect volunteering has had on me is tremendous.  I am now sure that I want to be an elementary school teacher.  I have learned a lot about one-on-one tutoring and how to teach basic math.  The kids I work with benefit because they get more one-on-one help and someone who is interested in them and in what they are doing."--CLP Student, Junior, English and Math

“Before I had all these ideas, but they just rested uselessly in me.  I felt I couldn’t enact any change.  Now I feel I – or anyone – can help change the world in our communities.”   -- CLP Student

"CLP has opened my eyes to issues I have never really thought about, and given me a new way of viewing issues in education.  I feel like I am a better informed citizen after taking this class."  -- CLP student

A Partner School Perspective on the CLP Curriculum:

"I wish I'd known about the CLPreader when I switched from an expensive private school.  It covers much of what every new teacher to the school district should read: journal articles and information on school testing, classroom issues, diversity, economic and health issues, students of poverty and much more.  It has taken me thirty years working with a wide variety of students and avidly reading about educational issues to work as effectively as I do, and Dr. Simmons-O'Neill has distilled that reading and experience into the CLP class and its reader, sending out students who are strong and effective helpers in the classroom." –
CLP Partner School Librarian


For more information, contact:

Elizabeth Simmons-O'Neill
Director, Community Literacy Program

Padelford A-14
English, Box 354330
University of Washington
Seattle, WA 98195
(206) 685-3804