Erica Kelly, Teneile Warren and Jo Altilia of Literature for Life

Centennial students raise funds and profile of literacy

At a pub in East York, public relations student Rachel Kellogg is helping to raise the public profile of literacy.

“It’s all the stuff I’m very passionate about,” she said.

Recently, at the Fox and Fiddle restaurant on Danforth, a number of Centennial College Corporate Communications and Public Relations students organized a fundraiser for the “Literature for Life” charity.

“They’re a very small charity,” Kellogg added. “There’s two or three employees and 45 volunteers. … They host reading circles with at-risk young moms from shelters around the city and help them build literacy skills, build confidence, build creativity skills.”

The “Women with Words” Reading Circle helps young mothers improve on their literacy skills through reading a book with other young mothers, or to their children. Helping to organize the fundraiser seemed the perfect choice for fellow-student Viv Snead.

“It speaks to me because I used to work for a literacy organization…that dealt with adults who had literacy issues,” Snead said.

Jo Altlia is the former executive director of Literature for Life, a charity she inaugurated 15 years ago.

“I really believe in the power of words,” Altlia said. “As a former teacher…I saw a lot of kids in school who were not going to be successful because circumstances in their lives didn’t allow their parents to become as invested in education.”

Altlia went on to explain that libraries can be intimidating, with a culture around reading that some consider elitist.

“I felt that it was really important to start working with families,” Altlia said. “I just have a place in my heart for young moms who have children and all those stresses that they have to manage and their education is interrupted or the school system doesn’t work with them because it doesn’t deal with social issues.”

At the fundraiser, Teneile Warren, current executive director of Literature for Life offered heart-felt gratitude to the Centennial College public relations students.

“To have a room of people gathered who don’t know who we are ….just to share a moment…is sometimes amazing for us to embrace,” Warren said.

The event raised $800, $200 shy of the goal for the night. Host for the night, Centennial student Alessandra Seca, considered the night a success.

“You don’t realize how many women don’t know how to read and the literacy rate is really low; it’s actually really sad,” Seca said. “What (the charity does) and the things that they promote and the type of help they give these women is amazing.”