VICTORIA – Story Studio Writing Society, a non-profit, literacy-focused organization that has demonstrated innovative leadership by inspiring, educating and empowering youth through storytelling, has been awarded BC’s 2020 Council of the Federation Literacy Award (COFLA).

Based in Victoria, Story Studio Writing Society started in 2011. Its facilitators bring together kids of all ages with authors and illustrators. Together, they produce around 1,500 youth-authored books annually, creating a memorable experience for each young writer. Story Studio volunteers, writers and illustrators have worked with almost 10,000 youth, taking a unique, fun and creative approach to improve their literacy skills and build self-confidence.

While working at the community level, Story Studio recognizes marginalized or lower-income families’ needs, as 80 per cent of its programming is focused on supporting and engaging vulnerable youth. To maximize its accessibility and resources, it partners with a broad range of community organizations, including the Greater Victoria Public Library (GVPL) and Royal BC Museum. It has worked directly with Victoria, Saanich and Sooke school districts. Its facilitators lead workshops for teachers, parents and other adult learners, with the purpose of inspiring others to support youth writing and storytelling. Story Studio is a registered charity, supported primarily by individual donations and grants.

Story Studio is currently running an innovative program with GVPL to mentor teen writers. The studio has more than 40 writers working in its online workshops, and their work will be collected and published in a collection in early September 2020. In August, with the help of last year’s COFLA award winner Morie Ford, the studio offered online workshops to a small group of immigrant mothers new to BC in the Family Literacy Outreach program in Vancouver. By the end of the program, each mother will create a short story that she can read to her young child.

The Council of the Federation, which includes all 13 provincial and territorial premiers, created the literacy award in 2004. Presented in each province and territory, the award celebrates outstanding achievement, innovative practice and excellence in literacy. Story Studio will receive a certificate signed by Premier John Horgan, a Council of the Federation Literacy Award medallion and $500.

“We’re delighted to be recognized for the important work of our staff, volunteers and donors,” said Sarah Tarnopolsky, board chair, Story Studio. “Stories help us process the present and imagine the future. Given the challenges our communities face, it’s now more important than ever for youth to be given the skills and space to tell their stories. That’s what Story Studio is here to do.”

The Province supports literacy in partnership with Decoda Literacy Solutions. Decoda provides resources, training and funds to support community-based literacy and learning initiatives in more than 400 communities throughout British Columbia.

“We congratulate Story Studio Writing Society as the recipient of the 2020 Council of the Federation Literacy Award,” said Margaret Sutherland, executive director, Decoda Literacy Solutions. “Story Studio inspires, educates and empowers youth through storytelling. It is wonderful to see this fun and creative approach to improving literacy skills honoured.”