Story and photo courtesy of www.nnsl.com

In 1989, a group of northerners got money from the federal government to organize a conference on literacy. The purpose was to see if there was interest in starting a Literacy Coalition for the NWT. They were motivated in part by the United Nation's International Year of Literacy and funding made available by the federal government for literacy projects.


Over 100 people from all regions of the NWT attended the conference. By the end of the conference an "Interim Council" was formed to do the groundwork for holding a founding convention. The Interim Council developed by-laws and established balanced representation between the eastern and western regions of the territories.

A founding convention was held and delegates came from every community to meet in Yellowknife. The convention adopted the by-laws and elected the first officers of the NWT Literacy Council. Edna Elias was the first NWT Literacy Council president.

In the first year, volunteer board members ran the NWT Literacy Council. In 1991, a half-time Executive Director was hired. For the first few years, the Literacy Council focused on developing its mandate and developing a strong organization. The Board consciously chose to promote and support literacy in all official languages of the NWT and to support communities and community-based literacy initiatives. The organization actively raised the profile of literacy through the PGI Tournaments for Literacy, Read for 15, NWT Literacy Week, the NWT Writing Contest and other promotional activities.

In 1994-95, the Literacy Council hired its first full-time Executive Director and hosted the "Literacy Matters" conference. This conference attracted literacy practitioners from every community in the NWT. The conference also provided the Literacy Council with a stronger mandate in program and practitioner support.

In 1996, the Literacy Council initiated the Family and Community Literacy Development project as a way of providing information, training and resources to people in communities interested in or working in literacy and adult basic education. The Council also increased its advocacy role and its outreach services to communities.

In 1999, the NWT Literacy Council divided into two new councils as a result of the creation of Nunavut. We now have a 10-member board, a full-time Executive Director and full-time project staff. The Literacy Council's projects continue to grow as we respond to the literacy needs of communities and practitioners in the NWT. Our role has become stronger through the development of partnerships with NWT community and college programs and with provincial, national and territorial organizations. The Literacy Council has grown and developed into a credible voice for literacy in the NWT.