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Our Literacy programs in Atlantic Canada 

May. 14 2024

Since 1913, United for Literacy (then the Reading Camp Association) has delivered basic literacy and numeracy classes in English and French in Atlantic Canada. (We have compiled a timeline of our history available on our About Us page.) In New Brunswick, Nova Scotia, Newfoundland and Labrador, and Prince Edward Island, United for Literacy offers a variety of free literacy and learning programs, including: 

  • classroom support 
  • guided reading clubs
  • family literacy support 
  • support for newcomers to Canada and temporary foreign workers, including English and French as Additional Language classes 
  • one-to-one academic and reading support  
  • Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math (STEM) clubs 
  • reading, math, and homework support for children and youth in a variety of settings. 

The future looks bright for literacy in Atlantic Canada 

Currently, programs are offered in Halifax, Preston Township, Wolfville, Newfoundland, Nunatsiavut, Nunavut, Nunavik, Nunatsiavut, Fredericton, and Moncton, with a plan to launch programs in Prince Edward Island and this year, for a total reach of 23 communities in Atlantic Canada, including 12 First Nation Communities. 

A map of Canada highlighting the different provinces that make up Atlantic Canada
Map highlighting Atlantic Canada

The Atlantic Canada team works closely with our partners and the communities we support to ensure that the programs we deliver best help the people we work with. Our programs complement the formal education system so that people can be fully engaged in learning. 

As Brenna McIntyre, Regional Coordinator says, “Literacy gives us the ability to navigate institutions and advocate for ourselves.”

A message from Johnny St-Onge, Regional Manager, Atlantic Canada: 

A picture of johnny, regional director of Atlantic Canada with a quote from the article
A photo of Johnny, regional director of Atlantic Canada, accompanied by a quote from the article.

"At United for Literacy, we believe that potential is evenly distributed, but opportunity is not. We are for children, youth, and adults from underserved, urban and rural, low-income, newcomer, and Indigenous communities who need extra literacy support but are largely unable to access it (because it is not provided or is unaffordable).  

We are for them by providing essential free programs to help them, for example, improve their reading, writing, math, study, and essential skills; complete their homework; and learn English or French as an additional language.   

The focus of our programs is to complement the formal education system so that learners can further improve their skills, build their confidence, become more engaged in learning, achieve their goals, and move closer to their potential.  

Our growing team of eight Instructors and Community Coordinators serving the four Atlantic Provinces work very closely with the communities we work in (e.g., parents, schools, educators, community centres, libraries, and multicultural associations) to ensure that the free programs we provide, and the learning needs we meet, are shaped by the community.   

Most of our programs rely on the dedication of volunteers who serve as tutors. They are mostly university and high school students, retired professionals, and corporate volunteers. While they bring strong skills to tutoring, they also gain valuable skills and are rewarded by helping learners, making a difference in their lives, and feeling a sense of community.    

We are also grateful to our funding partners, including many community and family foundations, universities, and government agencies, whose numbers and contributions continue to grow. They are also for the people we serve, and their generosity enables us to continually increase the number of communities and learners we serve.  

In my role as Regional Manager, I am especially grateful for the skills and dedication of the team, including several who have recently joined United for Literacy. I also really enjoy working with each of them and seeing how they grow and succeed.    

The future looks bright for Atlantic Canada. Building on our success, throughout the school year and summer camps in 2024, we plan to:   
  • Launch programs in Prince Edward Island and Newfoundland, and 8 more communities, for a total of 23 communities in Atlantic Canada, including 12 First Nation Communities.   
  • Offer 25 programs and serve more than 4,000 learners.  
  • Engage more than 200 volunteers and hire close to 50 youth to serve as interns during the school year and as camp and reading tent leaders during the summer. 
I invite everyone reading this article who is interested in contributing to or benefiting from our work in Atlantic Canada, to please contact me at: [email protected]."

Programs in Nova Scotia:  

From Trish Derby, Regional Coordinator, Nova Scotia:  


A photo of Trish, accompanied by a quote from the article.

"My name is Trish Derby.  I’m an experienced educator, Learning Strategist, and Special Education Resource Teacher. As a Special Education educator, I have seen firsthand what happens when students don’t get the opportunities that they need to succeed in school.  The work we do here in Halifax with learners and their families is making a difference.  

I joined United for Literacy in August of 2018 as the Community Coordinator serving the communities of the Halifax Regional Municipality.  I am now the Regional Coordinator for Nova Scotia, working with staff and volunteers in Preston Township, Wolfville, Truro, and Antigonish.    

We offer a variety of programs that are delivered in-person and online and include Reading Circle, Guided Reading, Reading Club, STEM, Mathlympics, Immigrant Families Learning Together, and 1:1 Academic Support.  We also deliver our Summer Reading Tents to different summer camps throughout the area in July and August.  

Most of our programs are focused on developing and/or strengthening learners’ reading skills.   

All our reading programs are designed using the principles of Structured Literacy, and we have seen many successes thanks to this. We saw an increase in reading levels in 96% of our learners enrolled in the Guided Reading program. Feedback from our volunteers, parents, and teachers was positive about the strides that their children had made. We measure their success by administering assessments that measure their phonological awareness skills and sight words. These assessments help us provide reading material at the appropriate reading level, and they also help us identify any areas that may need strengthening. Our goals include developing the learner’s reading skills in a fun and safe environment. We do this by using interactive games and activities.  We hope to help them find the joy of reading and become lifelong learners.    

From Alondrea Johnston, Community Coordinator, Preston Township:
A photo of Alondrea, accompanied by a quote from the article.

My name is Alondrea Johnston, and I am the Community Coordinator serving Preston Township, a group of historically Black communities in Dartmouth, Nova Scotia. I started working with United for Literacy in June of 2023 as program support before becoming the Community Coordinator. I was super excited to step into the role. Since working with United for Literacy, I've had the privilege of assisting with a two-week literacy summer camp in Preston Town, the first of its kind. It was a privilege to be a part of such an experience where I witnessed our campers grow, learn, and improve their literacy skills. I'm so excited to continue working within my community to ensure that youth in the Preston Township have every opportunity to grow in literacy.   

From Rana El-Zoheiry, Community Coordinator, Preston Township:

My role is to develop literacy programs for children and youth in three different communities in Nova Scotia: 
  • Wolfville,,
  • Truro, and
  • Antigonish.

A picture of Rana and her dog with a quote from her from the article
A photo of Rana and her dog, accompanied by one of her quote from the article.

This is our first time working outside of Halifax Regional Municipality (HRM), so it’s pretty exciting. 

There’s a lot of outreach and community engagement involved. Right now, the focus is on reaching young people and spreading the word about our volunteer opportunities. We are aiming to recruit volunteers from Acadia University, St. Francis Xavier University, Dal’s Faculty of Agriculture, NSCC Kingstec, NSCC Truro, and several different high schools.  

The other priority has been to bring in the voices of parents and local community organizations and invite them to participate in our program design. So far, we are mainly in touch with parents, many of whom have eagerly shared their thoughts about children’s programs where they reside, what they think is missing, and what kind of programs they need for their children. 

If you live in or near Wolfville, Truro, or Antigonish and you’d like to get involved, please get in touch with me!


Programs in Newfoundland, Nunatsiavut, Nunavik, Nunavut, and Prince Edward Island 

From Brenna McIntyre, Regional Coordinator: 

I’ve worked with United for Literacy since 2015, beginning as a volunteer. Since that time, I’ve been an on-site coordinator, member of the Montreal volunteer organisational team, camp counsellor, program assistant, CLC Coordinator, Camp Coordinator, and I am now a Regional Coordinator.  

Most of my work consists of coordinating and managing our Summer Literacy Camps in Inuit Nunangat. However, I also work on community literacy programming in Newfoundland.  

Our Summer Literacy Camps aim to prevent summer learning loss and increase social and emotional growth. Cultural learning is also a priority. In some communities, Literacy Camps are the only camps operating during the summer, and often also the only learning programming available. The community feedback we receive points to the importance of camp program, both as an educational support and as a chance for children to socialize throughout the summer.   
These programs also help local youth develop their employability skills through training and coaching throughout the summer. Counsellor surveys indicate that working at camp is an overwhelmingly positive experience and increases their confidence in areas such as leadership skills, organisation, and working with children. In communities where our camp programming is longstanding, we also see many camp counsellors who previously attended the camp as children! This demonstrates how the camps have an ongoing positive impact on the community.  

Community involvement is a cornerstone of our programming. Our community partners and funders are consulted from the point of conceptualization, until the very end of the project. Additionally, staff, participants, and community members are invited to share their feedback, both informally and through anonymous surveys. The results are used to improve and adapt our programs.  

A quote from Brenna, from the article

My programming is designed in collaboration, and ongoing consultation, with the communities that we work with. It is extremely important that our programs provide a culturally safe and supportive learning environment. We always approach partnerships outside of our own communities with the knowledge that we are also learners, and it’s important to listen more than we impose. To illustrate, some of our typical means of communication, such as email or video calls, will not work in the places we run programming. As well, we must be aware of cultural protocols around teaching and learning. For this reason, our programs are reflexive. We’re always looking back and searching for ways to alter our programs to fit the community’s strengths, practices, and needs.  

When working with any communities, and especially Indigenous communities, it is important to consider cultural safety and the ways that Canada’s historical and contemporary manifestations of colonialism will affect community attitudes towards schooling and learning. For this reason, we strive to include community and cultural knowledge throughout our programs. This includes limiting the hiring of staff from outside the community and integrating language and culture into our program design and implementation.   

Programs in New Brunswick 

From Cindy Hancox, Community Coordinator, New Brunswick: 

Cindy oversees programs for children and youth in Fredericton and Moncton, with hopes of launching Learn to Read programs in those cities as well as Saint John.  

"In the past year, there have been many reasons for excitement in New Brunswick. We launched Literacy Day Camp in Fredericton, in addition to the return of our Reading Tent in Wilmot Park and Storywalk. In Moncton, five neighbourhoods benefitted from our newly launched Reading Tent program. Reading Tents also returned to Saint John, including neighbourhoods that we’d never visited previously. 

A picture of Cindy, accompanied by a quote from the article.

All children and youth should have equal access to programs to help them get from where they are to where they need to be. We want to help learners build literacy skills and instill a love of reading. We run our programs from community centres so that learners don’t have to worry about transportation. We want to make learning as care-free as possible."

From Shelley Poitras, Instructor Coordinator for Adult Programs:

I coordinate the EAL (English as an Additional Language) Sec Talking Circle in partnership with the Multicultural Association of Fredericton (MCAF). MCAF identified a group of learners who wanted to improve their English-speaking skills. The Talking Circle program launched in October 2023, and we also provide additional support to learners with small group tutoring sessions. The overarching goal of the Talking Circle is to give adults who have completed CLB (Canadian Language Benchmarks) level 6 ESL training the opportunity to practice speaking in English and to give them the confidence to do this in real-world situations.  

Une photo de Shelley entourée de bénévoles et accompagnée d'une citation d'elle tirée de l'article
A picture of Cindy, accompanied by a quote from the article.
Our volunteers bring diverse skills and expertise as well as their own experiences and insights to the program. This helps to build a sense of community within the group. The Talking Circle is a safe place for learners to try things out and to make mistakes, which helps them become more comfortable with speaking English and builds their confidence. It focuses on the learner, their culture, their life experience, and their learning needs, while providing a safe, diverse, and inclusive learning environment.   

As an advocate of lifelong learning, creating learning programs and working directly with learners means I get to empower people as they break barriers to build a better life for themselves and their families, and I get to help build a stronger, diverse, and inclusive community. 

From Emma Warwick, Community Coordinator: 

My time with United for Literacy began in 2021 as a summer intern working with the Indigenous Summer Literacy camps in New Brunswick. I went on to another internship during my last year of university, working with volunteer recruitment, social media, and program support. After graduating in spring 2022, I transitioned into the Community Coordinator position with our programming in Wolastoqey and Mi’kmaq communities in New Brunswick and Nova Scotia. Currently, I work with community partners in Sitansisk First Nation, Bilijk First Nation, Wotstak First Nation, Sipekne’katik First Nation, and Pictou Landing First Nation.   

We’ve provided summer camp programming in all five communities, and we’ve been building our school year programming, too, including a STEM program and a Learning-to-Read program after school at the Chief Harold Sappier Memorial Elementary School in Sitansisk. The hope is to have similar programs in more communities.   

A picture of Emma, accompanied by a quote from the article.
Our goals include reducing summer learning loss, providing reading support, and making tutoring more accessible in rural areas. It’s also important that our programming involves an Indigenous lens and is inclusive of Indigenous culture. 

It feels great when children who participate in our summer camps talk about how much they enjoy the activities and coming to camp. We’ve heard from community staff that we work alongside with how certain children are showing more interest in reading, and that their behaviour has improved. It’s also important that we’re able to hire summer staff from within these communities.  

Further to that, my relationships with community partners are very important, and building those relationships takes time. It’s important to keep to your word and prove that you have the children’s and community’s best interests at heart. Our community partners are very involved, and it’s important to get their input on where and how we would be the most helpful or impactful. We want to understand the learning and literacy needs of the community, and often partner with an established program so our contribution is based on what works best. 

Ensuring that children have the proper support to develop a strong set of reading, writing, and talking skills is an important aspect to their education and also to their ability to engage with themselves, each other, and their communities. One of my favourite parts of my work is encouraging a love of reading and storytelling with learners, so that they can explore the world, learn about others, and share their own stories.   

Irvana Deesse is the Program Support in Halifax Regional Municipality

Among other tasks, Irvana is responsible for volunteer outreach and support. 

Article-AC-(4).pngA picture of Irvana, accompanied by a quote from the article.

She says, “Volunteers are crucial to the success of our programs. They provide one-on-one or small group support, which can offer more personalized attention to our learners. They also help with monitoring our kids' groups. Their dedication and support are significant to creating a positive and motivating learning environment.” 

If you’re thinking of becoming a United for Literacy volunteer, Irvana’s experience may inspire you to apply: “I truly enjoy being at the service of our community, a community that welcomed me. Giving back is very important.” 


Volunteers Make a Difference 

"We couldn’t support as many learners as we do without our volunteers.  They are very generous with their time, and they take their role seriously, even while delivering a fun program or online tutoring experience. We have received positive feedback from parents, learners, and teachers throughout the years. Parents return to our programs because their children showed improvement and enjoyed participating in the programs or working with a tutor. Our volunteers do an excellent job of creating a fun, safe space for learning.   

Immigrant Families Learning Together is a popular program for families who are new to Canada. Our program is learner-centred, and while tutors work with the adults, their children participate in our literacy/numeracy programs at the same time.  Many adults who attended this program have found employment and some were accepted into post-secondary schools to continue their education. Many of our volunteers in this program speak more than one language, which helps us to provide the safe space we aim for.    

Working with the volunteers to ensure they are well prepared to work is paramount to me. Knowing that we are supporting learners who otherwise would not have access to a tutor means that we are providing opportunities that, in my mind, help to level the playing field for these learners. This means everything to me. " Trish 
Volunteer opportunities in Atlantic Canada 
Volunteers are central to everything we do. There are both in-person and online opportunities in Atlantic Canada. 
Currently, we are looking for volunteers for our English Additional Program in Saint John at Bayside Middle School. 


Tuesdays and Thursdays,  
Sessions take place between 8:40 and 2:40 
Each session is 1 hour 
Volunteers need to get a Criminal Record Check with Vulnerable Sector Screening. The cost of this will be reimbursed by United for Literacy when the volunteer provides a receipt and banking information 
If you are flexible, patient, and willing to share and learn, this opportunity is for you! You can apply here.  

If you’d like to learn more about the literacy programs that we offer in one of the cities listed above or anywhere in Canada, please visit our programs page. If you have any questions about our programs in Atlantic Canada, reach out to Johnny at [email protected].   
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