How to improve our children’s reading and writing skills?

Here is some interesting news concerning childhood literacy and education.

On February 24, 2015, there was a press conference held in Toronto to present the results of a Model School project. The Martin Aboriginal Education Initiative (MAEI) sponsored the cost of teacher training by the Ontario Institute for Studies in Education (OISE) for schools located at Walpole Island and Kettle and Stony Point First Nations in Ontario.

The program started by training the teachers how to properly instruct reading and writing. The project schools then set up a ninety minute period at the start of every day dedicated to reading and writing.

The pilot program started in 2010, and cost about 1.5 million dollars to run until it ended in 2014. Close to five hundred students from kindergarten to Grade 6 participated.

The results were eye-opening. Prior to the program, only 33 per cent of third grade students at these schools met or exceeded provincial standards for writing. Four years later, 91 per cent of Grade 3 students had met or exceeded those standards. Compare this to Ontario-wide results, where 70 percent of Grade Three students meet or surpass those standards.

OISE’s Dean Julia O’Sullivan said “the results were phenomenal by any stretch of the imagination.”

It is curious that a key component of the program was to train teachers how to properly teach reading and writing. Is this just a problem with teachers at those particular schools?

One wonders because Grade 3 results for ten schools located in the Jane-Finch area show that only six schools have 70 percent of students meeting or exceeding the standard in either reading or writing. Three schools meet the 70 percent standard for both.

What accounts for the differences? Is it a question of how various teachers have been trained? A question of how resources are shared between schools within the same area? If this pilot project was brought into these Jane-Finch schools, would we see the same “phenomenal” results?

2 responses to “How to improve our children’s reading and writing skills?

  1. Wow! Those results are staggering, and you raise a lot of interesting questions. Some of the answers can be found in a report called Foundations of Literacy that you can easily find online. With effective instruction, the majority of children can learn to read, but early intervention for children with difficulties is critical, and so is effective teacher training. Research shows that there is a direct connection between student reading achievement and teacher knowledge of language.

  2. You raise some really good questions. There are a lot of myths around reading, and one of them is that learning to read is natural. No one teaches us to talk–do we really need to be taught to read? Of course we do! Not only do we need to be taught, but studies show again and again that student reading achievement is tied to teacher knowledge (Foundations for Literacy, 2008). We should really be insisting that our teachers receive better training for teaching kids how to read.

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