A Dandelion Story

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Steacy Pinney and Dandelion

A Dandelion Story: Calgary Reads is Spreading Early Literacy Across Calgary

Beloved non-profit’s early literacy initiatives to be carried on by community partners

CALGARY, AB—At a time when children need help learning to read more than ever because of the pandemic, Calgary Reads is scaling up by spreading its early literacy mission across the city: Several community partners will carry on its critical early literacy work and raise the next generation of readers.

After forming 22 years ago with a one-to-one volunteer tutor program for struggling young readers, Calgary Reads has bravely incubated a variety of initiatives to enhance the reading lives of children and families, including wee read, Little Red Reading House, community reading places, a Book Bank, LENA Start, a program that supports parent-infant interaction to improve literacy outcomes, and more.

It was with this desire to better serve children, especially children furthest from opportunity, that Calgary Reads recognized an opportunity to grow its reach and the reading revolution. This June, Calgary Reads will release its initiatives and resources to several ‘dandelion seed partners,’ organizations that will carry these ‘seeds’ far and wide—reaching many more children and giving them a bright start in school and in life.

“We are excited and hopeful about the future we are creating—one in which strong organizations with greater capacity, reach and resources can give these impactful programs the attention they deserve and get more children the help they need,” says Monica Mochoruk, Calgary Reads board chair.

Calgary Reads is a vibrant and beloved brand well-known for its eclectic windowfront in the Kahanoff Centre, the whimsical Little Red Reading House in Inglewood and the Big Book Sale, among many other events that have helped Calgarians experience the joy of reading.

“We really are proud of all we’ve accomplished in the last 22 years,” says Pinney. “We’ve brought to Calgary an incredible and innovative array of evidence-based early literacy resources, some of the most unique in Canada. It is bittersweet that Calgary Reads as we know it will no longer be, but our legacy and impact will live on for generations. This, truly, is the best outcome for our community.”

Pinney looks forward to new ways of advocating for early literacy, and all other team members will have a role with the partners.  While Calgary Reads’ charitable status is expected to formally dissolve by the Fall, the story only continues. Calgarians can continue accessing early literacy offerings through each of the seven dandelion partners in the coming months, and for many years to come.

“Helping children learn to read by Grade 3 is an enormous, critical undertaking—one that needs to be shouldered by all of us,” says Pinney. “We encourage everyone to keep the reading revolution alive by supporting our partners with books, donations and time.”

Calgary Reads by the Numbers

Dandelion Partners

More on the initiatives and organizations carrying them forward

1. 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:

  • wee read, a free online training program that helps parents and volunteers develop and deepen their confidence as reading role models
  • Read Up! school-based volunteer tutoring with children in Grade 1 & 2

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 at Big Brothers Big Sisters. We look forward to expanding that focus very intentionally and we see so many opportunities ahead,” says Ken Lima-Coelho, President & CEO, Big Brothers Big Sisters of Calgary and Area. 

Learn more about Big Brothers Big Sisters of Calgary and Area

2. 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.

  • Early Words (formerly 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. Early Words positions early literacy as an essential part of their child’s health.   

We’re grateful to Calgary Reads for the tremendous progress they’ve achieved over the past 22 years. Their 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,” says Ariel Siller, CEO, Canadian Children’s Literacy Foundation.

Learn more about CCLF

3. Frontier College is a national charitable literacy organization that believes, as Calgary Reads does, that 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 volunteer training resources, ensuring that children from Vancouver to Halifax will continue to benefit from the material.

  • Volunteer Digital Library, including Literacy-in-a-Box, Parent Café and others.

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—and our work with children, youth and adults across the country with some of the very best training materials,says Richard Harvey, Regional Director West & Prairies, Frontier College.

Learn more about Frontier College

4. Mount Royal University

Calgary Reads and Mount Royal University have collaborated and co-created for several years. Together, we’ve worked to coordinate one-on-one tutoring experiences between B.Ed. students and young readers. We engaged MRU Interior Design students to design cozy nooks in Little Red Reading House. It’s a natural fit for MRU to take on the Read Up Tutoring program, now evolving into MRU Read Up, based on the science of reading.

  • Read-Up Tutoring (now MRU Reads)

“Mount Royal University B.Ed. students have learned so much about how children learn to read from the experience of tutoring children. We are excited to carry on the proud tutoring tradition initiated by Calgary Reads to support the children of Calgary and the next generation of teachers,” says Jodi Nickel, Professor, Department of Education, Mount Royal University.

Learn more about MRU Dept of Education

5. YW Calgary offers a continuum of preventative and restorative services to support women, their families and their community toward a place of wellness.

  • 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 is excited to nurture our ‘Dandelion seed’ from Calgary Reads by further embedding 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,” says Sue Tomney, CEO, YW Calgary.

Learn more about YW Calgary

6. 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:

  • Little Red Reading House
  • Book Bank
  • 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

We are delighted to discuss how the Owerko Centre and UCalgary can build on and collaborate with the extensive community network established by Calgary Reads to create community-engaged and community-embedded research about the critical importance of early literacy,” says Dr. Susan Graham, Director, Owerko Centre at the Alberta Children’s Hospital Research Institute.

Learn more about The Owerko Centre

7. Rotary Club of Calgary

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:

  • Big Book Sale proceeds will now feed the newly established…
  • …Early Childhood Literacy Fund to distribute seed and bud grants to organizations working on early literacy…
  • …and proceeds will also support the Book Bank

“We strongly believe that early childhood literacy is the critical stepping stone in not only ensuring that people can support themselves and their family but also in ensuring that they can understand society and help move the world to a more peaceful place. 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,” says Manon Mitchell, President, Rotary Club of Calgary.

For more information, media can contact:
Natalie Appleton
Communications Lead, Calgary Reads

For interviews, media can directly contact :
Steacy Pinney
CEO, Calgary Reads
403-998-8418 (mobile)

Photos General media library with a gallery of Calgary Reads photos from over the years and Little Red Reading House media library