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The Stories of Us


This project aims to empower newcomers to learn English through their own stories. It involves 3 main components; stories of newcomers written in their native language, translation of that story into English, and multiple versions of the same story in various levels of English comprehension according to Canadian Language Benchmark (CLB) Standards. The stories will be collected in our ESL library, available for ESL educators and learners to download or print.

For the pilot project, we are testing this workshop model with the goal of eventually being able to deliver broader impact through a “train-the-trainer” model and through online and open-source printable materials. We have developed printable and digital templates to capture the stories of newcomers. The stories are then translated by volunteer translators before added to our ESL library.

We are looking to partner with local libraries, community centres, newcomer agencies, and programs such as the TD Summer Reading club to promote and make the ESL library accessible to anyone that may need it.

The goal of the project is three-fold:

  1. Empower newcomers by giving them a platform to share their stories and feel that they have a voice as a citizen of Canada and contributing to the overall social fabric of the country;
  2. Create books out of the stories with side-by-side English and native language translations; and
  3. Educate established Canadians about the journey of newcomers to Canada through first-person stories.


In 2016 we met adult ESL teachers, Anne McGreggor-O’Neill and Anne Cairins (our Design Champions), who shared with us a challenge: teaching newcomers English with books that don’t reflect personal settlement journeys. They find it challenging to find relevant stories at appropriate reading levels. They talked about trips to the public library where librarians offered native English speaker books to ESL students that utilize reading tactics for toddlers. The formulas of rhyming and repetition work well for children under 5 learning to read for the first time, but the appeal is lost on adult newcomers who are simultaneously navigating the stress of settling in a new country.

At the core of our work the mission and drive is to create a sense of belonging for citizens across Canada. We see newcomers as core to what makes Canada unique and that engaging them early in their settlement journey is the one of the easiest ways of starting this conversation. We recognize that the settlement journey can be jarring, exciting, challenging, and joyous all at the same time. For newcomers this includes leaving behind the familiar and re-learning everything from housing, to work, and of course, language.

The storytelling templates are intended to reduce the feeling of evaluating an individual’s settlement journey and instead to serve as a reflective activity and learning opportunity. The hope is that this activity will lead to greater human insights and not feel like yet another assessment in the settlement process.

The Need

According to the 2016 Census, 21.9% of the Canadian population reported being a landed immigrant or or permanent resident and 1 in 5 are foreign born. We believe Canada has always had the reputation of being welcoming to others and continues to be. The need and desire to be able to speak English and confidently build community is one of the key struggles we have heard from newcomers. We believe a strength of Canada is to recognize individual identities and journeys of each Canadian and to do so we want to help preserve native languages as well as increase access to learning English.

This project is unique as it is a first-hand telling of experiences arriving and living in Canada written by and for newcomers. These stories capture the very real personal struggles newcomers faced as they settle in Canada. The project identifies common struggles and solutions that have been used by newcomers.

Browse the library

Visit our ever-growing library of books available for ESL learners.

Use the curriculum

If you’re an ESL teacher, sign up to access our free curriculum designed specifically for you to use in your classroom.

Add your story

Fill out our online workbook and add your story to our library.

Become a Translator

We’re looking for volunteers to help us translate stories from newcomers to Canada. Sign up today!

Become a Partner

We’re looking for community organizations who work directly with newcomers to bring the project to. Sign up today!

Our participants

Project Manager

Mathura Mahendren

Design Champions

Anne Cairns
Anne MacGreggor-O’Neill

Start Date

September 2017

Current Status

Year 3 of IRCC funding

Generously supported by

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