Our Dandelion Story
We turned to our mighty partners – and to you – to grow our reading revolution and help many more children learn to read by Grade Three.
for making reading wishes come true
Twenty-two years ago…
…we dreamed a dream that all children in Calgary could become joyful, confident readers. Over the years, Calgary Reads’ one-to-one reading programs, our family readaloud revolution, our Book Bank and our special reading places have given thousands of children a bright start in school and in life. Thank you for being a part of the passionate community of supporters who’ve championed each child’s right to read.
Continuing our legacy
Today, because of the pandemic, there are many more children who need help becoming stronger readers than Calgary Reads can reach on its own. The need for greater early literacy support is so vast and complex and critical, that we needed to scale up and spread out to improve the reading lives of local children and families. So, we’re turning to our village and to you.
Spreading Early Literacy Across Calgary
We see the childhood literacy initiatives that we nurtured along as the seeds of dandelions: the flower of wishes. Now, through our ‘dandelion partners,’ the bright burst of Calgary Reads has become seeds carried far and wide to help many more children open the doors to a lifetime of opportunity.
Hear how our partners are making these seeds their own, and making an impact.
Big Brothers Big Sisters of Calgary and Area weeread.ca
wee read is a free online resource that helps mentors and caregivers develop and deepen their confidence as reading role models.
Big Brothers Big Sisters of Calgary aims to ignite the joy of reading among its youngest mentees (age 6-9) as they build a developmental relationship with their reading role model, their mentor. Both in schools and community, BBBS provides free access to the redesigned weeread.ca as they help young people achieve their potential.
“I observed the student was reluctant to read at the start of the school year, but found that her attitude and behaviour toward reading has improved a lot since meeting with her reading role model mentor.”
– Teacher at a participating school
Early Words/Premier mots provides healthcare professionals with resources, training, and books so they can deliver early literacy support to families with babies and children.
Canadian Children’s Literacy Foundation (CCLF) has grown the Early Words program over the last year to include an additional 30 clinics, bringing the total to 68 and we are on track to reach a total of 95 clinics by September 2024. We are also focusing on integrating Early Words into residency and nursing training programs; and piloting a project to integrate early literacy ‘prompts’ into electronic medical records.
“It has been truly inspiring to watch the Early Words program partner with an additional 30 clinics across Canada, including Alberta Children’s Hospital Neo-natal Follow-up and Cleft Palate clinics. By providing over 41,000 books and counselling sessions to families, Early Words has continued the Read with Me legacy of integrating healthcare and early learning supports.”
Nina Jobanputra Shukla, Director, Early Words
Calgary Summer Reading Tents
United for Literacy
Calgary Summer Reading Tents provide an inclusive space for families to share the joy of reading, books and storytelling as well as increase book ownership and reduce summer learning loss.
United for Literacy collaborated with 15 local community partners to ensure access to a wide range of participants in multiple locations. In addition to interactive storytime, children also had the chance to take part in games and crafts. Over the summer, 36 tents events saw visits by 881 children and 286 adults; 773 books were distributed.
“We are so excited to see children embracing literacy with enthusiasm. The Reading Tent nurtures and provides an enjoyable learning environment that actively champions literacy. Our goal now is extending literacy support to even more children in Calgary.”
Richard Harvey, Regional Director West & Prairies, Frontier College.
MRU Reads sees teacher candidates paired with a child in a local school to provide one-to-one literacy tutoring during weekly field experience.
MRU Reads saw 90 teacher candidates provide support to 90+ students in 2022-23. At the end of the school year, teacher candidates created a visual story about their experience that was shared at a community showcase event.
“Teacher candidates are so inspired when they see reluctant readers become successful and motivated through tutoring.”
Jodi Nickel, Professor, Department of Education, Mount Royal University
LENA Start is an evidence-based community program designed to help families learn how to increase conversation with their children from birth to age 3. LENA promotes interactive talk—specifically back-and-forth conversation—a key factor in healthy early brain development.
YW Calgary facilitates LENA Start sessions, including using LENA’s patented talk pedometer technology, to measure their child’s language environment. LENA pairs tech with strengths-based coaching programs. A graduation rate of 81% was achieved, exceeding the 71% average across all LENA sites internationally. Calgary is currently the only Canadian city and YW Calgary is the only organization running the innovative LENA programs.
“This was a fantastic program! I was able to connect with other parents and learn about interacting with my baby. His language development really improved through our participation and his speech is still developing really well. I continue to get LENA text updates with ideas of activities to do with him that I find really helpful.”
Calgary parent and LENA Start participant
Little Red Reading House and more
Little Red Reading House is a magical storybook home in Inglewood
Reading Place Affiliates at carya, Children’s Cottage YYC, CUPS, Discovery House, Families Matter, Richmond School, YYC, YW Calgary Women’s Centre
Little Red Red Reading Van and more
UCalgary Owerko Centre, Alberta Children’s Hospital Foundation
Literacy is a critical part of a child’s early development. As a community-based research site, the house will continue to welcome children and families for visits, while also generating exciting new opportunities for UCalgary researchers to engage with families and community partners.
“With the Little Red Reading House now under the stewardship of the Owerko Centre, we will have so many wonderful ways to link UCalgary research with children and families. The cross-pollination of ideas will lead to so many new insights and discoveries in children’s health and well-being.”
Dr. Susan Graham, Director, Owerko Centre at the Alberta Children’s Hospital Research Institute.
Big Book Sale
Calgary Reads Big Book Sale is the namesake fundraiser that attracts thousands of Calgarians to discover pre-loved books of every genre over 10 days at the Calgary Curling Club. Proceeds now support local early literacy initiatives, including some of the exciting projects of our seed partners.
The Rotary Club of Calgary is passionate about early literacy and uplifting the next generation. As the new stewards of the sale, in 2023, Rotary helped see 200,000 books make it to sale tables, 1,150 volunteers giving time, and 14,176 readers discovering new books. A total of $501,000 was raised and distributed by Rotary to help Calgary children become stronger readers.
“This book sale is such an impactful, grassroots way to uplift the community and do something meaningful for the next generation, which is what Rotary is all about, so we’re very proud and excited to have this role with the Big Book Sale.”
Manon Mitchell, Past President, Rotary Club of Calgary.
Meet Our Dandelion Partners
Letting Go – Letting Grow
When we created our dandelion strategy, it was with the bold hope that closing and gifting our ‘seeds’ to other organizations could actually help us scale, spread out and ensure more children become thriving readers.
In this report from Mount Royal University’s Institute for Community Prosperity, explore the strategy, the outcomes and the framework other nonprofits could follow as they look for innovative ways to grow their impact. 🍃
The Next Big Book Sale
Every spring, thousands of people eagerly take part in the Calgary Reads Big Book Sale. Our many volunteers, book donors and shoppers all share incredible passion for childhood literacy, and together, we help ensure a bright start for local children and families.
The Big Book Sale is one more way you can support this important cause. Stay tuned as we share details about the 2024 Calgary Reads Big Book Sale!
2021-22 Report to Community
Please take a moment to read our 2021-22 Report to Community: From Small Seeds Grow Big Things.
Early Literacy Matters
What can I do?
More than ever, children need your help to become stronger readers. We encourage everyone to keep the reading revolution alive by supporting our partners with books, advocacy and time.
Become a one-to-one reading volunteer, get books to young families or support the Big Book Sale. You can volunteer at Little Red Reading House and the Book Bank, and sign up for Big Book Sale opportunities.
Read As a Family
Take time for readalouds to build bonds and brains. Get resources, book picks and more at Little Red Reading House.
Put up a 'Readers Live Here' Sign
Show your hood how much you care about reading as a family and inspire others. To get your ‘Readers Live Here’ sign, stop by Little Red Reading House in Inglewood.