Research in brief

Tutoring can overcome barriers in low-income neighbourhoods

Research shows that low-income environments have a negative correlation to children's literacy levels. Lily Dyson of the University of Victoria first noticed this while observing children during workshops for other studies. Children from higher income homes made more contributions to the discussions, while children from homes with lower incomes had far less to say because they lacked the vocabulary, sentence structure and confidence to participate. Her recent Network-funded research confirms that the literacy of low-income children starts falling behind in kindergarten and the gap widens with each passing year. As a result, Dr. Dyson has focused on enhancing reading skills in primary-grade children from low-income families.


A new literacy intervention program was tested with 373 children in Victoria, British Columbia. The program was based on weekly 20-minute tutoring sessions, conducted in small groups and facilitated through teacher/researcher collaboration.


The application possibilities for the new program are best summed up in an email from one of the collaborating teachers: "Two of my students have increased their [reading] level by almost two years from September to June. Both received tutoring in your program."

See complete project description

Just because I don't speak English doesn't mean I'm not smart. I speak another language with my family at home. With the right instruction, I can learn English quickly.

Children like me, who lack English vocabulary skills can draw upon already known language and literacy skills in their first language. And the younger we begin to learn English, the quicker we will acquire these skills. Proper instruction is the key.

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