Literacy strategy launched by New Brunswick to improve rates

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New Brunswick launches literacy strategy aimed at improving rates
WATCH ABOVE: The New Brunswick government launched its new literacy strategy Monday in an effort to improve below average literacy rates in the province. Andrew Cromwell reports – Feb 27, 2017

The New Brunswick government has officially launched its literacy strategy in an effort to improve rates in the province.

READ MORE: Highlights from New Brunswick budget 2017: more spending, more debt

Premier Brian Gallant detailed the plan Monday at Edith Cavell School and explained how it would address literacy issues facing the province.

“One of the worries is that if you don’t address this as early as possible, the child could be lost in the system forever,” Gallant said. “There’s a turning point in the system where you go from learning to read to reading to learn.”

The province’s strategy follows the release of last year’s report by New Brunswick Literacy Secretariat co-chairs Marilyn Trenholme Counsell and Liane Roy. The recommendations included: speech support for children, encouraging parents to sing, talk and read to their children under five, and providing better support of community-based learning for adult literacy. Her report also suggested that libraries appoint community literacy coordinators.

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Some of the key priorities in the strategy, according to a release, include:

  • Providing a single point of access for parents to maximize their child’s or children’s development
  • Providing individual-based programs and services as well as intervention for children
  • Discovering ways to provide learning opportunities outside the “traditional school day”
  • Working with employers to address literacy needs for the labour market
  • Support for adult learners that “advances them” towards their goals and potential employment

Literacy has been a concern in the province over a period of several years, with the most recent provincial yearly assessment results released last year showing rates below “appropriate” levels for some Anglophone students in middle school grades.

READ MORE: Literacy levels in New Brunswick middle schools not making the grade

The annual report, released in October, found only 54.1 per cent of students were reading at “appropriate” reading levels.

Among Grade 6 Anglophone students, for example, about 25 per cent read at an “appropriate level,” and 21.3 per cent in the “high appropriate level.” Only 8.1 per cent showed to have “strong” skills in reading.

The province has a target of 85 per cent for reading.

As part of the strategy, $2 million has been committed to hiring more than 35 literacy leads.

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Trenholme Counsell said having literacy aides would be a benefit for both student and teacher.

“Our teachers only have a minimal basic training in literacy and I think they need this extra support,” she said.

Elementary Literacy executive director Erin Schryer told Global News that hiring these leads is an important part of the process.

“We need skilled interventionist teachers working with children directly as well, so I’m really hopeful that some of these literacy leads will be filling that role as well,” Schryer said.

She added a balanced approach is needed for both child and adult literacy needs.

READ MORE: NB government releases 10-year education plans, leaves implementation to educators

“We need to plug the leak, we need to stop kind of bailing out the water, plug the leak and that’s getting our children early before they’re struggling as adults,” she said.

In the province’s latest budget, $7 million per year was allocated for child and adult literacy needs.

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