New Hanover County Schools




Cape Fear Literacy Council

When you’re a child and you can’t read yet, the world is eager to help you learn. 

But if you reach adulthood and you’re not literate, it can feel like something that needs to be concealed, a mask you wear that’s hard to imagine taking off.

That is where the Cape Fear Literacy Council steps in for adults in our community.

CFLC helps hundreds of people every year become more confident readers while working toward big goals like earning a GED or passing a citizenship exam, or smaller but equally meaningful goals like reading street signs or restaurant menus, understanding a doctor’s orders, or reading a bedtime story to a child.

“A lot of times parents are not faced with the literacy challenges they’ve coped with until they’re having to help their kids with homework,” said Alesha Westbrook, communications and development coordinator for CFLC. “If you don’t understand the material and you’re not able to help your kid with their homework, you probably don’t want anyone to know why. You’re certainly not going to feel like you belong in the classroom talking to the teacher about why your kid is struggling.”

The Literacy Council offers free, individualized tutoring to anyone 18 and older who wants to improve their literacy or is learning English as a Second Language. Functional illiteracy is much more common than many realize, Westbrook said, because people hide it by picking up on social cues or learning coping mechanisms. 

Someone who can’t read a menu might always just order a burger and fries at every restaurant, for example. 

But reaching out for help and reaching toward those literacy goals can crack open a new world for many adults — from earning a promotion at work to advocating for your child at school.

Westbrook remembers one student who had never been able to read the Mother’s Day cards her kids had given her. “She would just say, ‘Oh, that’s so sweet,’ and pack them away,” Westbrook said. 

When the student’s literacy advanced, she brought in the stack of cards to read with her tutor, hearing the heartfelt messages from her kids for the first time. “That was where she started,” Westbrook said. “That was her motivation.”

For more information on the Cape Fear Literacy Council, including how to sign up for tutoring or how to become a volunteer, visit or call (910) 251-0911.