Yesterday’s public consultations in Toronto helped to crystallize a number of themes that will influence the content of the NSEL:
Teacher training: The vast majority of teachers across the country receive little to no training in reading instruction in university or college.
Presenters shared with us a range of perspectives on the efficacy of systematic phonics and the balanced literacy approach.
Scott Murrary shared with us the policy implications of not raising literacy levels and the need to both stem the tide at the early literacy level and intervene with programs to help raise the literacy levels of adults. When asked the question, “If you could focus on one area, which would it be?”, Scott responded that focusing on the early years would have the longest-term pay-off.
Libraries as Partners: The infrastructure and programming of the Toronto Public Library make it a primary example of a key partner in improving literacy levels in children and adults. It would seem to be self-evident and yet, across the country, library representatives and family literacy programs have expressed the readiness of libraries to partner for program delivery. One of the key areas of coordination in the literacy system must include the role that libraries can play.
A key question from Toronto that emerged in other cities: “Why is the School Librarian the first position to be cut in School Board/Government negotiations?” Librarians and educators across the country shared with us evidence that the position of school librarian is disappearing nation-wide.
Spider Jones, of Radio CFRB, shared with us some of his personal story and the work that he now does in the school system. A high-school drop out and former gang member, Spider learned to read at 26 in jail. Upon release, he entered college. He has recently written his second book, and speaks eloquently on the central importance of literacy to leading a meaningful life and reinforcing self esteem.
Mary Jean Gallagher, CEO of the Ontario Literacy and Numeracy Secretariat reinforced the importance of systematic testing of students and a systematic application of interventions to raise literacy scores among students at the individual school level.
Two organizations from the deaf community spoke about the importance of bilingual learning: ASL and English Print learning and need for supports to deaf children to ensure full literacy in this community.
One final comment from an educator involved the appeal to reintroduce mandatory hearing and vision testing for all children in K or Grade 1.