The Fenix is Rising

A Canadian Hero

This video created by two 8th grade boys from Barrie, Ontario won a finalist position in the Toronto Film Festival for Kids called Sprockets. 

About The Fenix

Written by

Terri Emerson and Janet Lee

Story by

Janet Lee


The Fenix is similar to movies like Forrest Gump and The King’s Speech. The Fenix tells the true story of Arnold Stewart, the “Forrest Gump” of literacy. 

The story follows Arnold “Arnie” Stewart throughout his life from his humble beginnings, as one of twelve children, living in extreme impoverished conditions in the small mining town of Cobalt, Ontario Canada. 

This story examines the very rare subject of literacy in film. Because of his extreme poverty, Arnie barely learned to read or write. At the age of 16 he was kicked out of school and was told that he would ever amount to anything. 

Arnie was forced to leave home. He set out on his journey into adulthood with the reading and writing skills of a third grader. In order to survive he would sleep in bushes, eat out of garbage cans and seek refuge in parked cars. 

Arnie met a girl who, out of compassion, brought him a sandwich. Arnie fell in love and married her. Together, they had two children. Because of his inability to read Arnie accidentally fed his children dog food instead of beef stew. However, the turning point for Arnie was the day he had to admit to his children that he could barely read. He knew he had to ask for help. 

Arnie found tutors and sought help at a literacy center. He began speaking at schools and always encouraged children and adults to always “Ask for help.” However, his real work began when he met Janet Lee, his mentor. Janet Lee discovered that Arnie, in his late 50s, still could not read above a 3rd grade level. She was exactly what he needed to push him to achieve a higher level of literacy. 

Arnie and Janet Lee visit hundreds of schools and prisons. He made a difference in thousands of people’s lives. 

Arnie rose from the ashes of his oppressed childhood and became a well-known advocate for literacy in Canada. He was awarded the Queen’s Golden Jubilee Medal for his work.  

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