Our Dandelion Story

We’re turning to our mighty partners – and to you – to grow our reading revolution and help many more children learn to read by Grade Three.
Thank you, Calgary
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 we’ve nurtured along as the seeds of dandelions: the flower of wishes. Now, through our ‘dandelion partners,’ the bright burst of Calgary Reads will become seeds that can be carried far and wide to help many more children open the doors to a lifetime of opportunity.
wee read and Read Up!
Big Brothers Big Sisters of Calgary and Area
wee read is a free online training program that helps parents and volunteers develop and deepen their confidence as reading role models.

Read Up! is a school-based volunteer tutoring program with children in Grade 1 & 2.

Big Brothers Big Sisters of Calgary and Area are experts at creating one-to-one mentoring relationships for children and youth in Calgary. Their work is perfectly suited to take on these school-based volunteer programs.

“We know that literacy is an important protective factor for children and we have seen evidence of this time and time again within the mentoring relationships we support. We look forward to expanding that focus very intentionally.”

Ken Lima-Coelho, President & CEO, Big Brothers Big Sisters of Calgary and Area

Read with Me
Canadian Children’s Literacy Foundation
Read with Me is an initiative that provides books to young families at immunization points through public health nurses who talk to new parents about the importance of talking and reading. Read with Me positions literacy as an essential part of every child’s health.

Canadian Children’s Literacy Foundation (CCLF) has a big, bold ambition: to build a brighter, more literate future for all children in Canada. Because they promote and develop literacy initiatives, champion literacy partners across Canada, and empower people to build literacy skills in their homes and communities, they’re a perfect fit to continue our work with this program, now called Early Words.

“The Read with Me initiative lays the foundation for a healthcare-based approach to children’s literacy in Canada. We’re proud to be carrying on its legacy through our Early Words program as we work with clinics in Calgary and throughout Canada.”

Ariel Siller, CEO, Canadian Children’s Literacy Foundation.

Literacy Resources
Frontier College
Literacy Resources is a collection of assets created over 22 years at Calgary Reads as we helped to equip and inspire tutors, caregivers and children.

Frontier College is a national charitable literacy organization that believes literacy is a right. They are committed to finding and using innovative ways to reach the people in our communities facing barriers to education. Frontier College will steward Calgary Reads’ resources, ensuring that children from Vancouver to Halifax will continue to benefit from the material.

“We are very much looking forward to extending the life of the amazing resources Calgary Reads has created so we can further support community literacy volunteers with some of the very best training materials.”

Richard Harvey, Regional Director West & Prairies, Frontier College.

Read Up! Tutoring
MRU Dept of Education
Read Up! Tutoring is a volunteer one-on-one reading initiative that pairs trained education students with elementary students.

Read Up! Tutoring program resulted from a collaboration between Calgary Reads and Mount Royal University’s B.Ed. program, so it’s a natural fit for MRU to take on Read Up! Tutoring, now MRU Reads.

“Our students have learned so much about how children learn to read from the experience of tutoring children. We are excited to carry on this proud tradition to support the next generation of teachers.”

Jodi Nickel, Professor, Department of Education, Mount Royal University

LENA Start
YW Calgary
LENA Start is an evidence-based community program designed to engage families and help them 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 offers a continuum of preventative and restorative services to support women, their families and their community toward a place of wellness. YW facilitators have been hosting LENA Start programs for Calgary families for three years.

“YW Calgary is excited to further embed LENA Start in our programs and digital technology strategy. We know LENA offers a unique evidence-based process that fosters and expands strong and healthy futures for children and their families.”

Sue Tomney, CEO, YW Calgary

Little Red Reading House and more
The Owerko Centre
Little Red Reading House, our 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 RV and more

UCalgary Owerko Centre, Alberta Children’s Hospital Foundation

The Owerko Centre’s mission is “To optimize brain and mental health for children and families through research, education, and community engagement.” Calgary Reads is in conversation with these partners to take on our precious house and other assets.

“We are delighted to discuss how the Owerko Centre and UCalgary can create community-engaged and community-embedded research about the critical importance of early literacy.”

Dr. Susan Graham, Director, Owerko Centre at the Alberta Children’s Hospital Research Institute.

Big Book Sale
Rotary Club of Calgary
Big Book Sale is the major fundraiser that attracts nearly 10,000 Calgarians to shop 150,000+ used books. Proceeds will now feed the newly established…

Early Childhood Literacy Fund, which will distribute grants to organizations working on early literacy.

The Rotary Club of Calgary is an organization of business, professional and community leaders who come together through commitment and fellowship to create opportunities and a better future for generations who follow. A long-time supporter of Calgary Reads, the Rotary Club of Calgary hopes to take on and steward our most important fundraising asset, the Big Book Sale.

“We are thrilled to be working with Calgary Reads to examine how we can participate in sustaining the Big Book Sale … this amazing event that brings Calgarians together in support of early childhood literacy.”

Manon Mitchell, President, Rotary Club of Calgary.

Meet Our Dandelion Partners

Hear firsthand from leaders at these incredible organizations and discover why we’re so excited about this next chapter.

Nurturing Our Dandelion Community

How will our partners stay connected with each other and the roots of our movement?

To help ensure our seeds are being nurtured to grow and thrive, our partners’ efforts will be supported and measured by a year-long evaluation, a case study and a new Literacy Lab. Rest assured, our seeds are united and in the very best hands.

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 stay involved and support this important cause. Stay tuned as we share details about the 2023 Calgary Reads Big Book Sale!

2021-22 Report to Community

This was a special year for so many reasons. From our Little Red Reading Van sharing the joy of books to the biggest Big Book Sale yet, there was proof, everywhere, that early literacy matters. We are so grateful to have people like you helping to build a thriving community that reads.

Please take a moment to read our 2021-22 Report to Community: From Small Seeds Grow Big Things.

Early Literacy Matters

Every child has a right to read. Together, the Dandelion Seed Partners are carrying forward the important early literacy work of Calgary Reads to ensure more children have access to books, strong reading role models and safe, fun reading places. With these reading essentials, even more critical after the learning loss of the pandemic, children can enjoy a bright start in school and in life.
When children have a home library, as little as 20 books of their own, they achieve three more years of schooling than children who don’t have any books at home.
Source: We are Teachers
25% of children grow up in a home without books
Source: We are Teachers
By age 3, children from the wealthiest and poorest homes are separated by a gap of millions of words.
Source: University of Kansas study, Betty Hart & Todd Risley, & Mapping the Early Language  Environment Using All-Day Recordings & Automated Analysis, 2017

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, donations and time.


Become a one-to-one reading volunteer, get books to young families or support the Big Book Sale. We’ll share opportunities here as they arise with our partners; you can already volunteer at Little Red Reading House and the Book Bank.


Help us to buy books, build reading places & fund early literacy initiatives.

Read As a Family

Take time for readalouds to build bonds and brains. Get resources, book picks & more. Learn more

Participate in Dandelion Season

Join us every spring as we celebrate the resilience of young readers.

Dandelion Season

Every May, as those bright and tenacious dandelions rise on our lawns and sidewalks, we take time to celebrate the resilience of young readers. As the school year draws to a close, it’s an important time to reflect on students’ reading levels and advocate for their right to read. It’s also an important time to make sure students have books and keep reading over the summer so they don’t lose ground on their learning.
Through Dandelion Season family and classroom activities and events, we honour the determination and needs of our youngest readers.
over the last 22 years


books given to children at Little Red Reading House and via Book Bank


hours read aloud to children


children visited Little Red Reading House


schools visited by our reading volunteers


families participated in LENA and 2,000 books were distributed to those families



Thank you for helping us raise a generation of readers.

Questions? Looking for Steacy?

Steacy is looking forward to new ways of advocating for early literacy. If you’re interested in designing a children’s reading place, professional development or consulting, please get in touch.