Literacy Coalition says early intervention must be improved
Frank Hayes wants new legislation to make 18-month old assessments mandatory in New Brunswick
The Gallant government will act quickly to implement the recommendations made in a new report to improve literacy in the province, according to one expert.
Frank Hayes, the president of the Literacy Coalition of New Brunswick, said he believes re-directing money to fund early childhood initiatives should be the top priority for the provincial government.
Hayes said those funds would help identify children who are having literacy problems because of their home life or disabilities. And if they are caught early, the proper supports can be put in place so they are ready for kindergarten.
The report by co-chairs Marilyn Trenholme Counsell and Liane Roy was presented on Friday and includes 37 recommendations, but Finance Minister Cathy Rogers says there is no new money to implement any of them.
Hayes said the recommendation that legislation be introduced to ensure mandatory participation of every child in an 18-month assessment is "exceedingly important."
We're trying to move from those who work in the woods and on the oceans and in the mines to become more sophisticated ... as technology changes people must develop better skills.- Frank Hayes
"The diagnostic testing of children at 18 months should occur so that if there were deficiencies and problems with individual children, interventions could be taken before those children enter the public school system," he said.
Hayes also wants to see regular testing of children throughout their school careers, so supports and interventions can be provided whenever necessary.
Parents are the final piece on his priority list.
"I really think that money should be focused on helping coach and train parents, who are with the children the rest of the time when they're not in school," he said.
Hayes points to Alberta's example
Hayes said many literacy initiatives in New Brunswick are led by volunteer groups and he hopes that after looking at what is available and measuring what difference programs are making, more money will be redirected to groups like his.
"Literacy is a pretty demanding area … what we're doing is pretty broad and it probably needs to be re-focused a bit so that we re-prioritize the dollars."
He said New Brunswick should follow its example to encourage students to be critical thinkers and problem solvers.
"Family and social supports are tied very closely with education," Hayes said.
"[Alberta] also empowers teachers to have flexible and innovative curriculum and I think sometimes our curriculum is tied so closely to outcomes that we don't leave enough room for flexibility and part of literacy in the 21st century is the ability to critically think and to be innovative."
Hayes said literacy is essential to improving productivity and New Brunswick won't be able to move forward without improving the reading and writing abilities of its citizens.
"We're trying to move from those who work in the woods and on the oceans and in the mines to become more sophisticated … as technology changes people must develop better skills."
with files from Information Morning Fredericton