London to host human rights commission inquiry into Ontario elementary school literacy

Londoners interested in the Right to Read inquiry are invited to the Amethyst Demonstration School Auditorium located at 1515 Cheapside Street. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Colin Perkel

Concerning statistics among Ontario elementary school students’ literacy rates have prompted the Ontario Human Rights Commission to launch a public inquiry into whether children with learning disabilities are learning in a suitable way.

Public readings for the ‘Right to Read’ inquiry are held in several cities in Ontario, including one in London on the evening of Wednesday, Jan. 29.

Students, parents and other stakeholders are invited to share their stories and lived experiences related to reading disabilities during these sessions.

“I think [the] amazing thing about the inquiry [is] we’re starting to talk about [the struggles],” said Christine Staley, the executive director of Dyslexia Canada, and also a mom to a daughter with dyslexia.
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“There’s a lot of shame that goes along with struggles in reading… the more we talk about this, the more we can understand it, and people who have dyslexia can feel [more] comfortable.”

Staley’s sixth-grade daughter experienced first-hand how challenging and ill-fitting the school curriculum can be for reading.

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“My daughter was calling herself stupid and crying herself to sleep every night,” Staley told 980 CFPL.

Click to play video: 'Dyslexia Part 1: Children falling through the cracks'
Dyslexia Part 1: Children falling through the cracks

She says children with dyslexia are instructed to ‘guess’ at words by looking “… at the first and last letter and guess what it is, or look at pictures and guess what that word is rather than teaching them sounds and phonics.”

“It’s a real problem [in] our schools for kids with learning disabilities,” she said.
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Due to the constant struggles often experienced by children with dyslexia at school, Staley says it’s not uncommon to notice behavioral issues by grade three.

“They might start to lose confidence, they get frustrated very easily, they might be angry, or they might not want to go to school.”

After years of privately-funded tutoring, training and therapy to learn how to read, Staley says her daughter has progressed to near grade-level.

Now, Staley is hoping that by the end of this inquiry, “some specific recommendations will come out of it and some very tangible changes will be made in the education system.”

She says Dyslexia Canada’s first hope is for every child to be screened for a possible reading disability in kindergarten or no later than the first grade.

They also want immediate remediation to be provided for all children identified with a possible reading divisibility.

“We also want to make sure teachers are trained on what dyslexia is, what to look for, and how to support their kids,” said Staley.

“And probably most importantly, we want to see real change in the curriculum. We want to make sure that reading instruction is based on science and not on this guessing system.”

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Londoners interested in the Right to Read inquiry are invited to the Amethyst Demonstration School Auditorium, located at 1515 Cheapside Street.

Registration begins at 5:30 p.m. Wed. Jan. 29th and public hearings are held between 6 p.m. to 9 p.m.

Those looking to offer their thoughts can register in-person to speak during three-minute open mic segments.

A formal report is expected to be released later this year.

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