Nfld. & Labrador

Literacy a 'big priority' for Dwight Ball's government, says education minister

Education Minister Dale Kirby read to some elementary school students to celebrate National Family Literacy Day and stressed the importance of improved literacy in the province.

'We have a distance to go'

Education Minister Dale Kirby read to some Grade 2 students at Octagon Pond Area School on Wednesday, as part of National Family Literacy Day. (CBC)

Wednesday was National Family Literacy Day, and education minister Dale Kirby paid a visit to Octagon Pond Area School to read to a Grade 2 class to mark the occasion.

Kirby did his part to support improved literacy in Newfoundland and Labrador, where some studies have ranked the province last in literacy rates in the country. The minister said the province is closer to the middle of the pack, as different tests yield different results. 

"If you look at literacy scores, it varies somewhere below average to above average to the middle, depending on which standardized tests we're talking about," he said.

'It's a big priority for our government."- Education Minister Dale Kirby

Kirby said literacy does require attention, however, and that more could be done to improve literacy rates.  

"We have a distance to go. Of course we'd like our kids to be performing at the top when it comes to literacy in Canada. It's a big priority for our government," he said.

The province's task force on improving educational outcomes will address issues of literacy once it's up and running, according to Kirby, and government will make improvements based on the task force's recommendations.

One initiative that is already in place to improve literacy rates is a focus on early literacy through the new all-day kindergarten, which is set to begin in the fall.

Dale Kirby says literacy is a big priority for the provincial government. (CBC)

"Reading is more than just about a book ... reading is subject-related, and children will have their own interests," Kirby said.

"And trying to find a way to connect that child's interests to reading so that they will acquire better, develop better reading skills as a result." 

One of the books that Kirby read on Wednesday was called Click, Clack, Moo, a story about cows who can read and write, a book that Kirby said was about not giving up. 

"One of the assets that we have in literacy is that children at an early age learn those messages through reading," he said.

"And they will often times then seek out other reading materials ... and those sorts of positive messages are reinforced." 

Kirby said that making good readers doesn't just happen at school, family literacy is also important.

He said reading needs to be done at home as well, as it provides a positive message and shows children the importance of reading.

"Even spending 15 minutes a day with them does a tremendous amount for improving their literacy — and their interest in reading."