Literacy for Life Foundation

"Literacy is a bridge from misery to hope" - Kofi Annan. Through creative, quality, community based programs, services and support we build that bridge with families, individuals and community - stone by stone.

People working together to build Essential Skills Our Story Why We Exist

We work hard to tell our story, which is your story, our story, the community’s story.  Let’s make it a happy ending…….

     What do you do if you don’t have the skills to deal with day to day life?

Imagine not being able to understand the newspaper, understand your child's report card, or make sense of safety instructions at work.

For almost half of Canadian adults, this is a daily problem.

According to Statistics Canada, 48% of adults struggle with literacy. The proportion is even worse for those in middle age. And even when new immigrants are excluded, the numbers remain pretty much the same. For some, it is an embarrassing secret they keep to themselves, developing coping strategies to cover their lack of reading skills. For others, it is a barrier that keeps them in low-paying jobs, or even prevents them from getting a job.

Why do we Exist?

We started as a grassroots movement within the MD of Foothills #31 that became a non profit in 1998 and a registered charity in 1999. A small group of dedicated community members recognized the importance of creating a structure that would facilitate building a literate community  within the MD of Foothills #31 where all community members could reach their potential. It has grown exponentially and faced  economic down turns and the flood of 2013 which is one of the most devastating natural disasters in Canadian history, with creativity and perseverance. Programs and services focus on the community members of the MD however it is now recognized at a provincial level due to work done on curriculum development and training

We are a small non profit but have a large capacity because we strongly believe in the  power of collaboration. All of our programs are done in partnership creating ownership of the issue  and are provided in multiple communities or in the home to ensure accessibility for all.

What is literacy?   

Literacy is more than reading and writing. It is the ability to communicate your needs and wants to the people around you and to understand what others are telling you. It includes listening, speaking, numeracy, getting along with people, problem solving, computer use and understanding and using different types of written material such as documents and prose. These are the essential skills needed in our society for people to live their LIFES.

A challenge that affects every Canadian…

The literacy level in our communities and our country affects us all. The direct cost of lower literacy skills to Canadian business is estimated to be in the order of four billion dollars per year, and the total cost impact on Canadian society has been conservatively estimated at 10 billion dollars. This is only going to get worse!

Our world has changed dramatically in the last 50 years. Researchers believe in the next 100 years we will see 20,000 years of change and growth in technology. The Canadian economy will demand a highly skilled worker in the labour market.  Technology and expectations of the present day employee continue to change dramatically and even at home there is an expectation of higher levels of problem solving ability.

The reason for criminal offenses?

On average criminal offenders have significantly lower literacy skills than the general population. Offenders experience literacy problems at a rate 3 times that of the general population. They are also 4 times as likely to have learning disabilities. 36% of offenders have not completed grade nine and according to the Correctional Service of Canada, the average education level of newly admitted offenders, serving two years or more, is grade seven.

Families are the foundation of our communities:

The health, safety, and welfare of entire families are compromised by lack of the essential skills. It tends to be intergenerational, resulting in poor academic performance, and higher school dropout rates among school-age children in homes where caregivers cannot read. The inability to read dosage information on over-the-counter and prescription drugs can be life threatening.

The principles behind Literacy for Life’s work

“The family is the strongest element in shaping lives. It's the most powerful support network there is. It's where the cycle of learning begins, where the attitudes of parents about learning become the educational values of their children. Through education of more than one generation, family literacy programs build on families' strengths and provide the tools and support they need to become stronger and more self-sufficient”. (National Centre for Family Literacy – Kentucky)

  • The first five years of a child’s life are key to their development. Most early childhood development experiences take place within families and all parents can have a positive impact on the development of their children.

“It is important to effect an individual’s literacy development early, but as literacy and learning is a lifetime process, “it is never too late and never too early.” Our family literacy programs impact on a child’s literacy at the early stages as well as teach the caregiver the importance of their own learning to their success, as well as their children’s.

We support adults in their learning and help them build essential skills for success in work, family and community.

The best learning takes place within positive relationships and environments.  Learning should be fun and make sense.

It is never too late for an individual to make a difference in their own learning.

Partnering in our community for success

Through partnerships and networking Literacy for Life Foundation continually strives to find ways to support community members across the continuum – from birth to seniors. 

Family Literacy at it's bestOur Impact What We Do

Literacy for Life is about more than teaching people to read - it is about helping people find a new way to live.

Consider the young single mom who had just moved to Okotoks, from one of the reserves, determined to provide a better life for herself and her two little girls.

When she told us her story we were amazed by the strength and courage it took to leave the reserve. Completely alone and without support she lacked ideas and knowledge on ways to change her circumstances.

We determined the best way Literacy for Life could begin was with our Building Blocks program. A trained Literacy Builder went to her home and together they designed a program that built on her strengths as a parent while recognizing her low literacy and lack of confidence. While working with Mom on reading and parenting skills the Literacy Builder quickly recognized the program length wasn’t sufficient to give Mom the support she needed. We extended the program to give her the gift of time to integrate the new skills and strategies into her family’s lives while putting other supports in place.

Mom’s determination didn’t stop there as she had a dream to get her GED and go back home to become a law enforcement officer. 

Resolved to support her we connected her with a reading therapist (who normally charges for services) to identify what type of strategies could be used by a volunteer learning coach. The therapist recognized the uphill battle Mom faced. She was so moved by Mom’s strength and determination she offered to work with the Mom at no cost.

There was one more challenge to overcome before we could start. Mom would need time for tutoring and she couldn’t afford childcare. Determined to find a solution the Coordinator made a connection with a childcare facility requesting help in accessing the childcare. Not only did they approve a spot but they also provided a subsidy.  

It was also during this time we identified that Mom was possibly dealing with Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorder. With her consent we were able to get an assessment that confirmed the diagnosis, providing valuable information on next steps.  She needed more than we could provide and was connected to a home support agency that focused on life skills and parenting skills.

Today her story continues to unfold...

At Literacy for Life we recognize that literacy isn’t simply about learning to read, it’s about creating the opportunity to learn.

Some Highlights of our Story!

1.  Literacy for Life connects with over 1500 individuals annually in the MD of Foothills #31.  We didn't miss a beat even after immersion into one of the most devastating disasters in Canada's history - Southern Alberta Flood 2013.

  • Our core programs continued and as noted in subsequent points we continue to grow.  Literacy for Life was able to support the emotional and social wellbeing of families and individuals through a variety of creative programs.  Art Therapy, Community Clothesline Project, Color your Stress Away and increased service to families in the Building Blocks Program.
  • Literacy for Life was a leader in a cohort that was instrumental in bringing the Becoming a Community Builder Initiative to High River as well as the creation of "Our High River" a community collective.
  • Instrumental in facilitating the publication of the The Stories of the High River Flood Book.

2.  We are excited to annouce the development of a new program called Natured Kids.  It is an exciting program that supports parents and children through interconnection with nature.  This program will be available for other agencies use in 2017.  Natured Kids is one more family literacy program to add to our success in program development.  Literacy for Life is a Co developer and provincial trainer for the Building Blocks In Home Family Literacy Program which is a recognized family literacy model in the province of Alberta.  The organization has also developed two other family literacy programs - Pool Rhyme Time and LEAP - Learn, Explore and Play.  

3.  Developed, implemented and delivered an innovative literacy program called Building Brighter Futures.  This program received a national honorary mention in Great West Life, London Life and Canada Life Literacy Award. Our work continues through a program called Tech Talk to start in 2017.  We continue to work towards developing ways to make digital skills relevant and accessible for families and adults. 

4. Continually work to develop quality relevant methods of evaluation to measure impact.  All programs have a logic model and a process for tracking outcomes.  Participated in the Calgary United Way Program Design Project.

5. Literacy for Life educates and creates awareness of the importance of literacy and learning in the community through a wide variety of initiatives that include social media, projects and partnerships with a many agencies.

6.  Our organization is not complacent and are continually looking for creative and sustainable ways to generate revenue as well as promote and create awareness of the importance of literacy and the essential skills. 

  • Developed a successful fund raiser called the Grate Groan Up Spelling Bee.  In 2017 the Bee will be held on September 30th, which falls on Arts and Culture weekend.  A fun addition to our event is the Global Cardboard Challenge; celebrating creativity and connecting to community.
  • Providing Learn to Learn workshops for revenue generation
  • Executive Director participated in the 2016 Fast Pitch a project of Social Ventrue Partners.  We understand the power of stories and work hard to find creative ways to share our story with community members, agencies and donors.

Dog Tales building confidence in Reluctant readersOur Programs How We Do It

Literacy for Life provides a broad range of programs and services within the Municipal District of Foothills that are free or at minimum cost. The programs are open to all families within the MD with the understanding that all families are vulnerable depending on the diverse factors that impact a family’s life.

Literacy and learning is a lifetime process. But, it is very important to have impact on children in the early years. "It is never too late and never too early..."

Family literacy programs provide parents with ideas, tools and strategies that build on the strengths of the family, helping them to help their children through the different stages. Family literacy programs also build literacy and essential skills in all members of the family across the age continuum.

As it is "never too late" it is also important that service are available to support adult learners that have a more specific focus on the nine essential skills - reading, writing, numeracy, oral communication, document use, technology,  thinking, working with others and life long learning.

Our  core programs range from:

  1. Books for Babies Program - Within 48 hours of a child's birth the parents receive a bag with books and information on the importance of reading to their baby. They also receive another book and more information at the child's 18 month marker.
  2. Parent and preschool oral language and early readiness group programs  
  3. Natured Kids - 10 week outside program for parents and children aged 3 to 5.  Research shows that children’s social, psychological, academic and physical health is positively impacted when they have daily contact with nature.
  4. Dog Tales -  School aged children that are reluctant readers read to dogs building confidence and skill in themselves and their abilities.
  5. Building Blocks In Home Program - Open to all parents in the MD with children between the ages of birth - 17. Trained Literacy Builders go into the home and shares ideas about learning, reading and parenting strategies that gives parents tools that will help them help their children. The program is based on play, building on strengths within the family and the 9 essential skills. 
  6. GED Readiness Course - supports adults in acquiring a High School Equivalency diploma
  7. English as a Second Language for Adults.
  8. Volunteer learning coaches for adults supporting basic literacy and numeracy development.
  9. Supporting adult learning in digital literacy. 
  10. Development of curriculums for use by other literacy and learning programs.  (Building Blocks In Home Program, Computer Basic Plus, Pool Rhyme Time and LEAP - Learn, Explore and Play, Natured Kids). 
  11. Awareness and education activities.The organization uses social media to educate and create awareness in Alberta, Canada and across the world,
  12. Provincial Trainer for the Building Blocks in Home Program

Literacy for Life prides itself on addressing needs in the community.  We continually monitor what is happening in our communities.  We started with one program in 1998 and as the needs were identified we found a way to make it happen.  We are continually evaluating our programs and developing process and framework to ensure the sustainability.

Check out our website at for more information on programs and services.

Senior Rhythm and Rhyme - One of our programs.Our Requests What You Can Do

48% of  individuals in the MD and across the province have literacy challenges that affect their social, emotional and physical health.

  • Many people within our communities believe that these statistics are not about them or their families that live within their community. 

Literacy for Life Foundation knows differently and asks you to join our mission and work towards  a solution!

Support from community, business, families, and individuals is critical.Literacy for Life is improving lives every day.  The organization consistently provides service to over 1500 people a year through our programs for all ages and abilities.  But there are hundreds more of your neighbors that have not been touched.

Join us so we can create a community of believers that are working together to find solutions.

Provide volunteers!

  • Bring your expertise, passion and enthusiasm to the 5th Annual Grate Groan Up Spelling Bee to be held on September 30th, 2017.We are looking for people to be part of the organizing committee and/or to take on specific duties. Duties could include helping to gain corporate sponsorship and support, build and/or implement our commmunication plan, help with social media, or enter a team in the Bee and raise funds through donations.

  • Help us acquire our prize for our 2017 raffle held in conjunction with the Grate Groan Up Spelling Bee. Are you connected to West Jet or Air Canada?  Help us sell our raffle tickets!

  • Telling our story is critical!  Videos are an excellent way to share that story.  Our organization could benefit from inkind support to design and implement a video story telling series that would showcase the work Literacy for Life does, helping to educate the public, as well as generating resources for the organization.  

  • Another video project would be designing and creating a video that showcases the Building Blocks Family Literacy In Home Program, a provincial model for family literacy.  The video would be used to train other communities and providers.  It would provide an outline of what is involved in the program, approaches for success and the benefits to individuals and families.

Make a donation!

If our mission matches yours - connect with us and collaborate on a project!  We would love to work with you!

  • A company (NorthPlusSouth) approached us with a donation of beautiful greeting cards. At first we were unsure what we could do with these cards as we are a service provider - not a retail store. It however has been a wonderful donation that has created funds through selling of the cards as well as created an awareness in the community as people have visited our office to shop.  We will be using the cards for literacy activities.  One to date was giving some away to children under the age of 12 with the promise they would write to Grandma or someone special to them.  We have plans for 2017 using them as a Arts Based Tool for Community Development.   This is just one example of how creativity can lead to exciting opportunities.

Become a corporate sponsor

  • Grate Groan Up Spelling Bee - Sponser the Bee or the prize for our raffle held in conjunction with the Bee.
  • Books for Babies purchase
  • Donation of Technology for adult learners and families


Sue Stegmeier
Executive Director
Charitable Number: 869707661RR0001

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Finance & Governance