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.

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 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. 

wee read

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
Canadian Children’s Literacy Foundation

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
MRU Dept of Education

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
YW Calgary

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
The Owerko Centre

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
Rotary Club of Calgary

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

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

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. We hope you got to be a part of our recent 20th 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, 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.

Join Left Unread

Join us in championing each child’s right to read so they can reach their full potential. Get involved in the Left Unread movement and read Canada West Foundation’s latest report: ‘The Case for Literacy in Alberta.’

‘The Teeth of the Lion’

As a very special Calgary Reads legacy project, we commissioned a children’s book celebrating the resilience of children. We were so fortunate to have writer Barry Thorsen and illustrator Jenny Dale collaborate to create ‘The Teeth of the Lion.’
In this video, join us for a readaloud of ‘The Teeth of the Lion during a Reading Rally at Valley View School, where Calgary Reads began… 
Copies of ‘The Teeth of the Lion’ are for sale at Little Red Reading House! 
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.