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.

The Network covers the full spectrum of literacy, numeracy and language research through more than 50 current projects – integrating contributions from the many sectors involved in children’s language and literacy development. Our research efforts focus on the following priority areas:

Aboriginal children

Between 40% and 50% of aboriginal children fail to meet the requirements of Grades 4, 7 and 10 literacy and numeracy tests. Furthermore, 75% fail to graduate from high school. The playing field is not level, but focusing on language and literacy development in the early years will make a difference.

Children from immigrant families

Today we find that 60% of Canada’s population growth is comprised of new immigrants. The majority do not speak English or French as a first language – most are young, with young families or planning new families. A Statistics Canada study found that the children of new immigrant families take seven to eight years to achieve the Canadian literacy norm. If literacy skills continue to be deficient, these children will show a 20% wage earnings gap as compared to native-born Canadians.

French-language children living in minority settings

The numeracy and literacy skills of 55% of Canadian francophone adults are too limited to allow them to deal with the majority of written materials encountered in everyday life. This is especially evident outside of Quebec.

Children with special needs

Research shows that 15% of Ontario high school students in the academic program are not passing the Grade 10 literacy test and 55% of those in the applied program are failing the reading portion. The high school drop out rate reached almost 30% last year.

Children who require improved instruction to acquire good literacy skills

Even children with normal development can experience challenges in acquiring good language, literacy and numeracy skills. Understanding what instructional methods can help improve these core skills will help them achieve lifelong success.

For further information about Network Research, please contact Katy Pocock, Program Officer.

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