Our Stories

Creating Innovative Spaces: Calgary Foundation Early Learning Centres

“Development can only take place when children are actively involved, when they are occupied with a high, non-stop degree of concentration, when they are interested, when they give themselves completely, when they use all their mental abilities to invent and make new things and when this gives them a high degree of satisfaction and pleasure.”

– Ferre Laevers

As one of the Calgary Public Library’s pillars to creating a world-leading model for early childhood learning, Calgary Foundation and an anonymous donor, have invested $1 million in support of four new Early Learning Centres. (ELCs)

Located in Saddletowne, Signal Hill, Forest Lawn and Crowfoot libraries, ELC’s provide a vibrant and interactive space for children age zero to five to engage in play-based learning.

Creating a smart, literate city is essential to sustaining Calgary’s social and economic prosperity.

“Education is a key to success that opens doors for all,” said Eva Friesen, President & CEO, Calgary Foundation. Early Learning Centres are a project the Foundation believes in – not only because they help grow our next generation of learners, but because they ultimately help grow our communities.”

Funding from the Calgary Foundation’s Major & Signature Grant program also enhanced training for staff and volunteers, providing them with tools to support children and families in our city.

Play is a big part of building literacy skills for children. “Every single child needs to be able to walk in and imagine and grow and learn. To have a whimsy, to have play in their lives. This stuff is unbelievably important,” said Calgary mayor, Naheed Nenshi, at the opening of the Saddletowne ELC.

Early childhood development sets the course for a child’s future and largely determines how well children will do in school, their physical and mental health, behaviour, relationships and general well-being. While parents are a child’s first teacher, the library is one of the only public institutions responding to the learning needs of the pre-school child.


With 9 ELC’s already open, the goal is to have an Early Learning Centre at all 18 local public libraries (soon to grow to 21 branches). Providing hands-on activities, props and games to support play and active learning, early learning spaces will nurture hundreds of thousands of children annually and will support children and their caregivers as they discover the five stages of early learning; talking, singing, reading, writing and play.