Help Ensure Teen Literacy

Fuelled by community support and the generosity of our donors, Wordfest’s Youth Program focuses on fueling teen literacy in Grades 5 to 12 to spark the next generation of engaged Calgarians and avid readers.

Our interactive programming model enables us to present the world’s most inspiring authors – such as Sarah Polley, Ali Velshi, Yann Martel, Cadence Weapon, and Tegan & Sara. In 2023, we connected 4,600+ junior and high school students with Canadian superstars, including Indigenous authors Cherie Dimaline, Michelle Good, Waubgeshig Rice, and David A. Robertson. Donors like you helped provide much-needed class sets (1,600+ books by award-winning, contemporary authors!) to Calgary schools, along with free busing. You will also be supporting a new Teen Recommended Reads initiative, online workshops as part of LitCon with Calgary Public Library, and in-depth Author-in-Residence experiences at local high schools. All of this innovative programing is delivered free of charge, while paying the authors for their valuable time and expertise. 

Teens come alive when they are exposed to life-affirming ideas, leaving informed and empowered. They ask questions, get autographs, sign up for library cards, and can’t wait to dig into books that animate and illuminate their experiences of the world. 

We invest so much in teaching small children to read, but there are unprecedented declines in literacy with teenagers. Wordfest Youth ensures that this early investment continues for teens, who need the ability to read and write, access to fact-based knowledge and deep empathy, and the aptitude to engage in mutually respectful communication now more than ever.

(You can learn more about the latest research in The Case for Literacy in Alberta, a 2023 report by the Canada West Foundation.)

How Do I Get Involved?

Donate to Wordfest. Your generosity will help meaningfully connect Calgary students with the world’s most inspiring authors. Find out more here.

Help spread the word! Share this Instagram Reel capturing the energy of the youth events at our 2023 Imaginairium Festival, and this audio recording of Yann Martel sharing the meaning of Life of Pi with Calgary students in 2022! To find out about regular Wordfest programming, join our email list and follow us on Facebook, Instagram and Threads.

Connect with us if you’re a Calgary-area educator working with  students in Grades 5-12. To find out first about upcoming opportunities for your classes, sign up for the Youth email list. (To avoid FOMO with our regular programming, please sign up for the Wordfest email list and follow us on Facebook, Instagram and Threads.)

Life-Changing Experiences

Over the past decade, Wordfest™ has connected more than 100,000 Calgary students with the world’s most inspiring speakers and authors, including Indigenous authors Cherie Dimaline, Bob Joseph, and Jesse Thistle; Olympic Gold Medalist & social justice activist Mark Tewksbury, NASA astronaut Dave Williams; Governor-General Literary Award-winning graphic novelists Mariko and Jillian Tamaki; and Scotiabank Giller Prize winner Omar El Akkad.

Being such a small school with such a tight budget we are really limited in what we can expose the kids to. The fact that this is free AND we get books is amazing. We love this program! –Alternative High School

Wordfest went above and beyond to facilitate my students attending the Michelle Good event. From providing class copies of the book, to helping with transportation, I cannot overstate how grateful I am that, in a time where our budget and administrative constraints are high, an organization exists that can foster greater student learning and appreciation for the arts. –James Fowler High School

I was ecstatic to meet the man who was able to resuscitate my heart through his beautiful and riveting writing. Omar El Akkad gave us rare insights and pushed us to open our minds to the world beyond our cellphones. His words both on paper and in our ears held a magnitude of rich messages that every student at some point needs to hear.” –Grade 12 CBE student

Some Recent Initiatives

Indigenous Voices: With support from our donors and the Calgary Foundation, Wordfest recorded interviews with 13 leading Indigenous authors (selected with input from series advisor David A. Robertson) to build a library of video resources that could be used in the classroom. Watch the series trailer here, and check out these sample segments with Wab Kinew and Waubgeshig Rice.

Belong (featuring Mark Tewksbury) was a one-man show (commissioned and produced by Wordfest in 2019), which insightfully examined LGBTQ+ identity and toxic masculinity in sport. It was then adapted into a touring performance for Calgary’s junior and high schools reaching 5,000+ students attending live. In partnership with BMO Canada, Wordfest also produced an inspirational video by Tewksbury on the themes in Belong, geared for classroom discussion.

Making Reparations – Books in Schools Initiative: Our generous donors helped Wordfest send every junior high school in the city copies of books by Cheryl Foggo (Pourin Down Rain), as well as Canadian author Desmond Cole (The Skin We’re In), Koa Beck (White Feminism) and Fredrick Joseph (The Black Friend). Cole, Beck and Joseph were also featured in Wordfest’s online storytelling show The Way We Make Reparations (2021), which featured questions from students from St. Margaret’s Junior High School.

Continue This Calgary Story of
Innovative Youth Activation

Donate to Wordfest’s Youth Program at the button below to have your gift matched up to 50% through Rogers Birdies for Kids presented by AltaLink!