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turning ripples into waves

The Canadian Language and Literacy Research Network is partnering to produce results.


Teachers in British Columbia are participating in an innovative project to raise literacy and math skills in six public schools serving lower-income neighbourhoods.

In another project, Aboriginal children in B.C., Alberta, Manitoba, Saskatchewan and the Yukon may finally get the help they need to reverse a disturbingly low literacy rate through research and a report with components focused on programs and practices that work.

A third project, through The Canadian Child Care Federation based in Ottawa, will produce a resource kit that translates the latest literacy and language research into practical tools for those who work with young children across the country.

Each of these initiatives is the result of The Canadian Language and Literacy Research Network reaching out to partner with public and private organizations.

“We're open for collaboration, putting our science to work through flexible partnerships with professionals, educators and practitioners to turn ripples of change into waves,” says Dan Sinai, managing director, Canadian Language and Literacy Research Network.

From endorsing and supporting funding proposals to providing financial resources and access to its national network of researchers and core facilities, The Network is working with a wide array of groups from coast to coast — over 75 partnerships in total to date. The continued focus on partnerships will drive management efforts in the coming years as The Network seeks to impact early childhood development in language and literacy by leveraging its funding against programs that impact communities directly.

“We're looking for innovative ideas and building new models,” Sinai continues, “all to make science available to agencies in the field.”

The first two projects mentioned are excellent examples of The Network's success to date. Each one comes out of a partnership between The Network and the Society for the Advancement of Excellence in Education (SAEE).

The first project is called the School Improvement Grants Program and it has targeted six lower-income neighbourhoods in B.C. in order to develop research-based improvement programs aimed at measurably bettering student numeracy and literacy skills. The Network is involved in all aspects of the program, but most importantly its researchers are able to serve as mentors to the participants.

“Action research is new to many schools and the teachers and administrators are often unfamiliar with the processes of more systematic and scientific data collection,” explains Helen Raham, executive director of SAEE.   “While the evaluators will meet periodically with the schools, regular dialogue with an expert or mentor will be invaluable,” she says.

The second SAEE-Network project has components focusing on improving literacy and math skills in Aboriginal students in four provinces and one territory. Less than 60% of Aboriginal students graduate high school and 45 — 50% fail to meet the minimum expectations on Grade 4, 7 and 10 literacy and numeracy tests. The project will study and identify successful interventions and practices that demonstrate exceptional success with the Aboriginal student population and produce a report documenting these programs.

A key role The Network will perform is getting the Aboriginal project's findings out. “This is a small study that could have a big impact on policy and practice for future research. Bringing it to the research community's attention, as well as policy-makers, will be very important,” says Raham.

A third initiative, moving forward through a partnership between The Canadian Language and Literacy Research Network and the Canadian Child Care Federation (CCCF), promises to have a wide reach. The Network is providing the latest language and literacy research to the CCCF, so that this information can be translated into everyday use in the form of a tool kit. “This new tool kit for practitioners will be an excellent resource for our 10,000 members across the country,” says CCCF senior director of development, marketing and communications Barbara Coyle.

In less than two years, The Canadian Language and Literacy Research Network has forged these and many other partnerships, creating programs that are impacting Canadian children's language and literacy skills. “We've made great strides in a short period of time. This is just the start of what we can accomplish when we work together,” says Sinai.


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