Sir Sandford Fleming College identified a need for improved literacy skills in Peterborough in the mid-1970’s with the first factory down-sizings and closures. Many candidates for job retraining programs could not work with the course materials because of poor reading and writing skills. Though some learners could improve their skills in the reading labs, many required one-to-one tutoring. Several of the members of the reading lab staff took on the task of tutoring.
At about the same time, a need for similar tutoring was found to exist in the community.
In 1978, Trent Valley Literacy Association (TVLA) was formed to provide this service. The service was free. Funding was solicited from local service groups and private donors to acquire instructional materials. Sir Sandford Fleming College provided a space for tutor training and began a literacy collection in their library. During these early years SSFC was the sole long-term financial contributor, providing $1,000 per year for five years (1978-1982) to cover workshop materials for tutor training and mailing expenses.
In 1981-82, the Peterborough County Board of Education became involved in adult literacy education. They introduced small group instruction for people who had less than a grade nine level of literacy. TVLA was used in a consultative capacity and also trained tutors.
In 1985, TVLA received financial support from the United Way and in 1986 the Ontario government started to fund community-based literacy programs. TVLA established an office downstairs in the Peterborough Public Library on Aylmer Street. In 1989 it became incorporated as a non-profit organization.
TVLA grew to provide service to over 120 tutors and students annually. By the late 1990’s the organization had outgrown its space at the library. In 2002, the Board of TVLA found, and TVLA subsequently moved to more spacious quarters at 139 Douro Street in East City, Peterborough.