The History Of Salt Spring’s Literacy Society

The Dream

Founder Elma Rubright envisioned a place where community volunteers would freely share their time assisting others build literacy skills.

The Opportunity

While volunteering at the old Mary Hawkins library, Elma learned that Literacy Now, a Legacies 2010 initiative, was offering three years of funding to support literacy initiatives throughout the province.
Elma quickly recruited a task force of dedicated community members to assist her in seeking funding for a literacy society on Salt Spring.

Community Consultation

Start-up funds from Literacy Now supported a community launch in April 2007 when a broad cross-section of community members brainstormed literacy needs in the community. The task force held many additional discussions with people involved in the areas of early childhood education, public education, social services and community education.

Start-Up Funding

December 2007: The Salt Spring Literacy Society signed a contribution agreement with Literacy Now, assuring three years of financial support.

A Governing Board

In order to register as a non-profit society the literacy task force elected a governing board at the June 2008 AGM.
Founding board members were Elma Rubright (president), Herb Burnett (vice president), Joyce Sharpe (secretary), Carol Hall (treasurer), Judi Baker, Judi Francis, Bea Brewer and Jean Elder.
The Society is still directed by a board of directors.

Community Presence

Funding from Literacy Now for a half-time Literacy Outreach Coordinator and program implementation meant that Elma’s dream continued to unfold. Outreach activities began in earnest: an office was established; tutors were trained; a part-time coordinator was hired; and learning companions began to work together. Procedures were established through group processes and consultation.

The Expansion

When the society received federal government English as a Second Language Settlement Assistance Program funding in 2009, the board employed a full-time coordinator and programming expanded to support an ever-increasing number of ESL learners joining the Salt Spring Island community.

While ESLSAP funds are no longer available, core support comes from the provincial government through the Community Adult Literacy Program and monies provided via Decoda Literacy Solutions. In 2018, three part-time staff run Salt Spring Literacy programming and the learning centre in Ganges. SSL moved to new rented premises at 125B Rainbow Road in June of 2017 and held a 10th anniversary celebration there in September of 2017.

The Giant Book Sale, transferred to SS Literacy from the Community Education Society of Salt Spring Island, which no longer exists but whose members started the book sale in 2007, is now a major source of funding, along with the Jewels for Literacy fundraiser, originated by SSLS board member Pat Campbell in 2015.

Individual community members and groups such as the Salt Spring Island Foundation, Rotary Club of Salt Spring Island, the Salt Spring Public Library and Country Grocer also provided much-appreciated funds and support.


An increasing number of learners continue to register at the Salt Spring Literacy Learning Centre. Programming has been expanded to include students in the One-to-One Reading program in local elementary schools.

Today Elma’s dream is an active learning centre where community members work together to enrich their lives academically, creatively and socially. The philosophy is simple. The learner is in charge: you decide what you need to learn and how you will learn.