Literacy in Action

Posted On Wednesday January 12, 2022

The District Literacy Team helps lead SD73 readers to excellence through the various stages of reading development.

Affirming that “Teaching reading is rocket science”, in their presentation to the Board of Education on Jan. 10, they highlighted how children and youth acquire reading skills along a predictable continuum. With teachers’ support, students move from learning to read to reading to learn, typically by grade 4.

The team, based out of the Henry Grube Education Centre, is comprised of Tricia Persad, District Literacy Coordinator, Pamela Thomson, Literacy Resource Teacher for Elementary, and Mike Carson, Literacy Resource Teacher for Secondary.

To help students progress through Dr. Chall’s Stages of Reading Development, “effective literacy instruction includes the systematic teaching of these five pillars of reading: phonemic awareness, phonics, fluency, vocabulary, and comprehension – these pillars are referenced in our District Learning Plan,” said Persad. With instruction and practice, most students should be able to develop phonemic awareness, phonics knowledge, and basic fluency in the early grades. These are crucial and correspond to the first three stages identified by Dr. Chall. “Teachers in our district make this learning joyful and engaging for students,” explained Thomson.

 “By the end of stage three, most students have made sense of all of those puffs of air that make up speech and all those squiggles that make up written language,” said Carson. “They understand the connection between the sounds of language and its visual representation. Now the lifelong journey begins – reading to learn.” Reading focus increasingly shifts to building vocabulary and deepening comprehension skills.

The District Literacy Team’s work centres on supporting foundational aspects of reading and writing and working with teachers and students to strengthen them. “That way,” Carson said, “all students can avail themselves of the innumerable benefits afforded by strong literacy skills.”

Following the presentation to the Board, Superintendent Rhonda Nixon commended the Literacy Team and the work they are doing in schools: “On my school visits, I often hear of the work you do – the after-schools, the residency projects – and it is surprising to me how in-depth you are able to go in a short period of time.”

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