Help them Soar!! Reading Pilots

The Cause

In 2018/19 CanLearn piloted a very successful individualized reading program for struggling school-aged children. Recently our coordinator received a great deal of interest from staff that support school-aged children at several women's shelters. Academic achievement and literacy levels is a recognized issue for children living in shelters, and staff have identified that they need outside expertise for this kind of help for children living in shelters.
CanLearn would like to adapt our individualized program to small group learning for reading support at shelters. It is a well-known fact that children that most children who do not live in literacy-rich environments struggle with reading. If children are not reading well by Grade 3 they are more likely to struggle in school and drop out before Grade 12. When youth drop-out of school and do not have strong social networks, they tend to fall into unemployment or precarious employment, poverty and homelessness. They are at risk for addictions, crime and poor mental and physical health. These children deserve a chance, their parents also deserve our help and to help build a better future.

Our idea is to help parents/ guardians and shelter staff to learn the fundamentals of reading and for a highly trained facilitator to join small groups (at about the same reading level) to work on their reading skills, build confidence and develop an interest in and positive view of reading and learning. Reading practice could also be supported by volunteers, school and shelter staff.

Who Will it Benefit?

Children living in poverty and in settings without home libraries typically have lower reading skills than their peers, have less confidence and often do not possess a growth-mindset about learning. Often both the parent/ guardian and the child lack confidence in their ability to read and their ability to change. The Reading Pilots program is multi-faceted in that it teachers caregivers, parents and / or guardians the foundations of reading, and teaches them how to build a growth mindset in children. It allows the caregiver to relax into the role of cheerleader and leaves the instruction in the hands of a trained facilitator (often registered and experienced teacher). Caregivers learn that reading is not an instinct, that it has to be taught and that many children require explicit, intensive instruction and in roughly 20% of the cases, children need some form of help from a specialist to get them past a difficulty.
Children work directly with a reading facilitator to determine what they already know, goal -setting and it allows the children to be the pilot, to take the lead. The facilitator supports the child's reading at the appropriate level and with evidence-based approaches. Many of our children will already have experienced failure, disappointment and possibly ridicule from classmates and in rare cases, teachers. From the outset, these children usually don't like reading. The facilitator will build reading skills incrementally, teach the child by giving them small wins and give them something positive to teach parents or caregivers. Soon, the joy of reading, the feeling of success follows. To master reading, our sessions needs to be followed up at home, or with other supportive adults. The tone needs to be consistent.
If children learn to read well by Grade 3, they usually experience school success and more often they finish Grade 12. Our goal is to get these children reading with confidence and as close to their grade level as we can so they can keep up with their peers.