by Gloria Welton
“Literacy is a basic human right and yet 45 percent of working-age Islanders do not have the literacy and essential skills needed to succeed in our digital world,” said Colin Beck, Chair of the PEI Literacy Alliance at a recent annual general meeting.
Colin recognized the incredible work that has been done to date but said there is more to do. “Low literacy skills have a significant negative impact on lives and on our economy.
“Here at the alliance and through our partnerships, we want to continue to help Islanders get through the struggle with learning by gaining confidence, resilience, and coping skills. These skills will allow people to take learning risks, learn from their mistakes, and persevere.
“I so admire the great staff I work with, the board of directors, all the members, our funders, our partners, and advisory committees,” says Jinny Greaves, Executive Director. “We couldn’t do the work we do without all those involved.
“The reward is meeting and serving the learners and watching them progress with the right support in place. “Without strong literacy and essential skills, it is difficult for people to be fully engaged at work, in their community, and at home.”
PEI Literacy Alliance aims to ensure that literacy barriers are minimized and gaps in services are filled so that all people on PEI can reach their highest achievable literacy level.
“One of the greatest gifts we can give our children is the ability to read and develop a love of the written word,” says Jane Hastelow, Manager, English Education Programs and Services, Department of Education and Lifelong Learning, who spoke at the meeting.
Jane said literacy is a powerful tool that is critical to our development and well-being. “The Department of education and Lifelong Learning has made significant investments in literacy resources and teacher training across all grade levels in order to strengthen PEI’s literacy levels.
“Our new English Language Arts curriculum is being implemented in grades seven and eight. We now have Classroom Libraries for all classrooms from kindergarten to grade 12 across the province which is very exciting. All students will have access to a wide range of books in their classroom and in their school library.
“Fundations has been successfully implemented in all kindergarten and is now being rolled out in grade one. It is a multisensory, structured language program which increases success with reading and writing. It also provides early intervention for students at risk of reading difficulties. By 2024, it will be in all classrooms from K to 3 across the Island.
“The provincial Literacy Strategy is in its early stage of development. A working group has been formed and has an approved workplan for the first stage of this strategy.
“Provincial and territorial scans have been completed and an overview of the findings and recommendations have been made to the working group. An internal scan of government programs and funding is currently underway.
“Phase two of this strategy will involve community service providers and stakeholder engagement. This is where we anticipate organizations such as PEI Literacy Alliance will be a partner to work to create a strategy that benefits all Islanders.”
Some PEI Literacy Alliance program updates
Ready Set Learn is a free summer tutoring program for children who struggle with reading, writing, and math. It is offered Island wide to children in grades K to 6 in English, French Immersion, and Francophone programs. Each child receives one hour of tutoring per week over eight weeks.This year, the program helped 648 students who are struggling in school to develop the literacy and social emotional skills they need to address their learning challenges.
Literacy and social emotional skills help students become more resilient, confident, and perseverant which helps them in the classroom and beyond.
This program also shaped 23 future educators by providing tutor training in best practices related to literacy and social emotional learning. Tutors also gained an understanding of the connection between mental well-being and learning.
Amanda Beazley, Programs Director, says this year they enhanced the tutoring sessions by integrating social emotional learning to address the mental well-being challenges students face, such as lack of confidence, frustration, anxiety, lack of self-regulation, and negative self-talk.
“With the guidance of an advisory committee, we adopted best practices for building resilience and core life skills to better support children and their families.”
When students were asked what they learned about social emotional learning during our program, the following six key themes emerged:
- Don’t give up and keep on trying
- Focus on doing your best and not being the best
- It’s good to make mistakes – it’s how we learn
- Stay positive and believe in yourself – don’t listen to your negative inner critic
- Try new things
- We can grow our brains
Essential Employability Skills is a program that helps adults who are underemployed or unemployed to prepare for the workforce. Participants receive classroom training and a six-week work placement in the healthcare sector. The program partners with employers who provide work placements with the goal of retaining them as employees.
This year, 24 adults gained essential employability skills and work experience.
Also, 83 percent of program graduates gained full-time employment or enrolled in a post-secondary program in the field of healthcare.
Dolly Parton’s Imagination Library and free books for kids is administered through PEI Literacy Alliance. Each month children up to age 4 who are enrolled in the program receive a high-quality age-appropriate book in the mail for free.
This program is in its second year and to date, 42,050 children’s books have been distributed to children Island wide. About 4,430 children and their families benefitted from these programs.
“Parents are reporting that their families are reading more because of the books sent to their home.”
Celebration of Learning is an annual event that celebrates success stories of learners, recognizes champions in the community, and raises funds to support literacy programs.