Frequently Asked Questions

What is Literature for Life?

We are a registered charity operating in the Greater Toronto Area, with a mission to help marginalized young moms develop a practice of reading in order to access opportunities and achieve economic stability.

Who does Literature for Life help?

At Literature for Life, we help two generations with one book.

Our core participants are young moms, aged anywhere from 13-30 years old. They typically live alone or in a housing shelter, receive social assistance, and have one or two children at kindergarten level and below. Most have completed grade 10, but the majority function at grade eight reading levels.

By improving the reading skills, and most importantly, the self-confidence of our young moms, we are improving the opportunities available for the whole family.  As the moms become more confident, they begin a routine of reading with their children, and become invested in their children’s education.  

What’s Women with Words?

That’s what we call our flagship program – a weekly Reading Circle.

What happens in a Reading Circle?

Our young moms meet weekly with trained facilitators to read books that are relevant to their lives, allowing participants the opportunity to reflect on issues and problems they often feel they cannot control.

Through highly interactive discussions and writing tasks, participants learn the power of words, and develop skills in reading, empathy and decision-making. They also learn that their voices have value. This leads to increased self-confidence and a renewed interest in learning that is then passed on to their children.

What are the program outcomes?

Success to us means we have not only improved a participant’s reading skills, but most importantly, their self-confidence. This opens doors to higher education, and meaningful employment. Reading Circle participants show an 18% increase in literacy skills, and an increase of 2.5 hours a week reading to their children. Literacy intervention also reduces participants’ dependence on public assistance from 67% to 11%*.

*Source: Canadian Council on Social Development

Do you take book donations?

Currently we do not have the office space to take and store used books. We work with specific titles in our Reading Circles, and believe it’s important every mom gets a new book, as this helps create a sense of ownership, and pride in finishing their book. 

But, there are many other ways you can support our Reading Circles: 

You can also donate your used books to any of these organizations across the city:

Yonge Street Mission  – Collects donations of books for a fund raising book fair held annually.

Toronto Public Libraries  - Collects donations of books for a fun raising book fair held annually.  Collection points are at the Toronto Reference Library and the North York Central Library.

The Children’s Book Bank  – Accepts donations of children’s books in good condition only for circulation within their centre.

 International donation programs:

For further information refer to The State University of New York – Provides connections to not for profits looking for books.

Where are your programs located? 

We form partnerships with shelters, and youth and community centres across the Greater Toronto Area. We currently run programs out of:

When was Literature for Life started?

We were founded in 2000 by Executive Director Jo Altilia.

How many participants have you helped?

Over 2200 young moms have now taken part in Literature for Life’s Reading Circles, and over 20,000 books have been distributed.

What’s Black, White and Read All Over?

It’s our social media campaign that underlies all Literature for Life programming and fundraising. We want more book lovers to connect with us by celebrating the power of reading to change lives. We want to dispel the myth that reading is elitist and show that reading can be enjoyed by anyone, anywhere.

You can follow the reading revolution on Twitter @Literature4Life and join the conversation with #blackwhiteandreadallover.

Are you a registered charity?

Yes! Our Charitable Registration No. is 89431 8617RR0001

We issue charitable tax receipts for all donations.

Do you have any job or volunteer opportunities?

There are no permanent positions currently available, but as an expanding grassroots organization, we always need help! Check out our current listings on Volunteer Toronto and if you don’t see a position in your area of expertise, please feel free to email us and let us know how you can help.

How can I find out more?

Our website is a great source of information, and we’re always happy to answer any of your questions. You can reach us at

Who do I contact about program services?

Please connect with Teneile Warren, Programs Coordinator and lead Faciliator at

Who do I contact about sponsorships and grants?

Please connect with Melissa Wood, Director of Corporate Liaison and Fundraising at

Who do I direct media enquiries to?

Please send all questions and interview requests to You can also find our Press Kit here and bios for our Executive Team here. 

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