First Literacy Lab

ESOL student potting seeds

The goal of First Literacy Lab is to provide grants to stimulate and support the development, trial, and implementation of Adult Basic Education (ABE) resources and practices that have an impact on specific students, programs, and the ABE field. The First Literacy Lab initiative strengthens individual programs and the adult literacy field as a whole by cultivating innovative ideas and creative problem-solving. Grants are made in the amount of up to $5,000.00 and are open to all nonprofit ABE and ESOL (English for Speakers of Other Languages) programs in Massachusetts.

First Literacy Lab grants are unique in the field, providing
– flexible funding not available from traditional funding sources,
– on-site technical assistance and support,
– broad-based sharing of findings,
– direct adult learner impact.

2018 – 2019 First Literacy Lab RFP and Grant Application Form

First Literacy Lab FY 2019 Request for Proposals (click here)

First Literacy Lab FY 2019 Grant Application (click here)

The First Literacy Literacy Lab 2018-19 Request for Proposals and Grant Application are now available. The Grant Application posted above is a non-fillable PDF file. If you would like to receive a Microsoft Word version of the Grant Application that can be used as a template for your proposal, please contact Evonne Peters, Program Manager, at

We will hold an information session on September 7 (click here to register) and proposals will be due on September 25. You will be notified of our decision by November 15.

This year, we will not differentiate between “innovation grants” and “program strengthening grants.” We are looking for fresh, creative, and educationally sound projects that enhance student learning and strengthen programs in the process. A Literacy Lab project should enliven your curriculum and help you reach your intended teaching and learning goals with fresh approaches. We have identified two priority areas:

  1. Experiential Learning (Any discipline—including ESOL, ABE, GED, HiSet)
    • Projects that move students away from reliance on the workbook, worksheet, and computer screen (for example: collaborations with community organizations, cultural sites, nature centers, community gardens; science experiments; cooking and food as ways to explore culture)
    • Projects that integrate expressive arts into learning (for example: drama/ improvisation, creative writing, using film in the classroom, music, song, visual art)
  2. Civic Participation and Citizenship
    • Projects that focus on integrating civic awareness and civic engagement
    • Projects that enhance paths to citizenship
We will still consider proposals outside of these priority areas. If you have questions, or an idea you would like to discuss further, please contact Evonne Peters, Program Manager, at 617.482.3336 x13 or at

Example of a First Literacy Lab funded program

Summer ESOL Gardening Class — Action for Boston Community Development (ABCD)

ESOL student caring for plants

ABCD developed this project after observing that many of their ESOL students had an interest in and experience with gardening, but did not know what plants grow in Boston or have enough room to garden. Students received ESOL instruction and hands-on experience on the environment, gardening, plants and vegetables, comparing practices in their countries and the US.

The gardening class used the students’ interest in the topic to strengthen their English vocabulary, speaking, listening, reading and writing skills. Activities included listening to and sharing a weather report, reading seed packet instructions, uses for different plants (medicinal, culinary, decorative), filling out an application for a community garden, and keeping a gardening journal. Because summer can be a time when students’ newly learned skills fall out of use, and ESOL classes are finished, this class kept students engaged, speaking, and learning.

Click here to see a full list of First Literacy Lab funded projects.

Would you like to learn more about our funded First Literacy Lab projects? Join our mailing list for an invitation to our annual First Literacy Lab Project Presentations this fall.