Welcome! The Canadian Language and Literacy Network is dedicated to bringing together scientists, clinicians and the literacy and language communities to address a targeted need for Canadian research in Early Childhood Development. The Network organizes Canadian researchers from various disciplines studying early language, communication, and literacy development. The broad objectives are to improve understanding and find ways of identifying children who are at risk of failing to develop adequate language, communication, and literacy skills, which, if not addressed, reduce their potential to succeed in school and function effectively as adults in Canadian society.

Communication and literacy skills provide the foundation for effective social functioning and for academic, occupational/economic and life success. When children fail to develop good language and reading skills there are a range of profound and enduring consequences, including academic failure and dropping out of school, poor psycho-social development, and reduced self esteem and sense of well-being. All of these reduce the opportunities for lifelong success.

Good language and literacy skills are also essential to the economy. Employers state that their top three employee requirements are good communication skills, the ability to learn, and literacy. Unfortunately, recent Statistics Canada reports indicate that more than 20% of Canadian high school graduates lack the literacy skills needed for entry-level jobs and experience difficulties reading even simple texts for comprehension. Another 25% of Canadians can read only simple printed material.

Researchers from the Network have identified poor language and literacy skills as a widespread problem that affects a sizable portion of the population, costing the individuals affected and society dearly. They have documented the need for and the advantages of early identification of children who have communication disorders or are otherwise at risk for failing to develop good language and literacy skills.

These issues have inspired a concerted research effort that includes research to:

  • Improve basic understanding of the neural, sensory, perceptual, cognitive, developmental, and social processes involved in normal language and literacy development and the bases for various types of language and literacy disorders;
  • Improve screening procedures for infants and young children to identify those who are at risk;
  • Improve assessment methods for differential diagnosis and to guide interventions;
  • Improve and evaluate different interventions that are appropriate for specific groups of children;
  • Develop new software products and technologies to support improved assessment, treatment and training;
  • Conduct longitudinal studies of language and literacy development in normal and abnormal populations and of the effects of interventions and different social conditions on the development of language and literacy processes;
  • Evaluate the effectiveness and cost-effectiveness of existing and proposed treatment and/or training programs;
  • Develop effective ways to communicate the results of this research to education and health professionals, care givers, families of young children, and the research community; and
  • Find ways to positively influence policies and practices for early childhood education and intervention strategies at the provincial, territorial, and national levels.

Award for fiscal years 2000-2001 to 2004-2005:       Total $14,200,000

Funding for the Network comes from Canada's three granting agencies -- SSHRC, NSERC and CIHR. Together with Industry Canada they combine their efforts to support and oversee the National Centres of Excellence (NCE) initiative. The funding for research and training in Canadian universities through the granting agencies' peer reviewed research programs is the foundation upon which the successful network approach is built.