Canada: National conference on children's language and literacy development

Harold F. Schiffman haroldfs at
Tue Jun 20 13:41:46 UTC 2006

National conference on children's language and literacy development
reaches into the local community

    CHARLOTTETOWN, June 19 /CNW/ - The Canadian Language and Literacy
Research Network will host a series of workshops today intended to bridge
further into communities across Canada with the latest and most exciting
childhood language and literacy research findings. The 5th Annual Network
Conference runs from June 18-20, 2006 in Charlottetown, P.E.I. and brings
more than 250 researchers, policy makers and practitioners together to
share the most recent research findings on childhood language and
literacy.  To highlight this year's conference theme, "New Words, New
Worlds: Partnering for Childhood Literacy", The Network will include
numerous workshops specifically designed to stimulate discussion on
children's language and literacy development between researchers,
practitioners, parents and teachers. The Network hopes to build and
develop resources and connections that will give these parties the
opportunity to improve and sustain childhood language and literacy

    "The challenge today is to connect top researchers in child language
and literacy development to the practitioners, parents and teachers who
are involved in the lives of children," says Dr. Don Jamieson, CEO and
Scientific Director of the Canadian Language and Literacy Research
Network. "This conference is the vehicle that will link these groups to
the most recent and innovative research material on childhood language and
literacy development, and will provide a means of involving community
members in childhood language and literacy research and aid in the
development of language and literacy skills of Canadian children."  Six
workshops are scheduled for the evening of June 19, from 5:00 to 6:30 p.m.
at the Delta Prince Edward Hotel, with an additional 12 workshops taking
place on June 20. Some of the topics to be covered include:  engaging the
community in literacy research, family literacy, early screening and
intervention tools for educators, program assessments and resources.

    Other conference highlights include keynote addresses by J. Douglas
Willms, Director of the Canadian Research Institute for Social Policy and
by David Gough, Director, The Evidence for Policy and Practice Information
and Coordinating Centre, Institute of Education at the University of
London. A special panel discussion on literacy and public policy is also
scheduled, featuring David Gough, Charles Ungerleider, Director of
Research and Knowledge Mobilization for the Canadian Council on Learning,
Joy K. MacPhail, Former Minister of Education, Government of British
Columbia and James Page, Former Director General of the National Literacy
Secretariat.  For more information regarding the Annual Network
Conference, please visit the Canadian Language and Literacy Research
Network Conference Web site at

    The Canadian Language and Literacy Research Network, a federal Network
of Centres of Excellence, brings together leading scientists, clinicians,
students and educators as well as public and private partners. The
Network's mandate is to generate, integrate and disseminate bias-free
scientific research and knowledge that is focused on improving and
sustaining children's language and literacy development in Canada. The
Network is hosted by The University of Western Ontario. For more
information on the Canadian Language and Literacy Research Network, visit

    The Canadian Language and Literacy Research Network

    The Canadian Language and Literacy Research Network was formed by a
group of leading Canadian researchers with a long-standing scientific
interest in language and literacy. The Network is incorporated as a
not-for-profit corporation and is governed by a Board of Directors with
experience in business, law, accounting, health care, media, academia and
government. Research activities are underway at 33 institutions across the
country, involving 125 researchers, 68 project associates, 230 students
and 126 partner organizations from the public, private and voluntary
sectors.  Headquartered at The University of Western Ontario, the Network
will receive $3.55-million annually (2005-2008).

    Network's goals

    - Create knowledge and combine this with existing knowledge to improve
        the language and literacy skills of Canadian children.
    - Establish networks of selected groups of practitioners to facilitate
        the application of research to practice.
    - Measure the efficacy of conventional practices in the field and
	apply available knowledge to create improved educational and treatment
        plans and protocols.
    - Establish permanent networks with federal and provincial governments
        for the development of evidence-based policies.

    Key Network activities

    -   Investing in multidisciplinary projects and leverage the knowledge
        available across the Network.
    - Investing in shared resources and complex technologies that are made
        available to individual investigators, who could not afford to
	access them on their own.
    - Providing funds to train students in the language and literacy
	field, and we foster their growth, as they become the next
	generation of child language and literacy experts.
    -   Creating linkages between the research, education, clinical and
        partner communities that will quickly translate findings into
    - Promoting partnerships with industry, education and health advocacy
        groups, service delivery agencies, not-for-profit organizations

    Four research priority areas

    The Canadian Language and Literacy Research Network has identified
that there is a definite, positive economic and social impact connected to
improving early language and literacy in Canada. Canadians with the lowest
literacy skills have the highest rates of unemployment (26%) compared to
only 4% for those with the highest skills. As such, the Network has
identified research priority areas for four groups of children who are at
risk for poor language/literacy development:

    1. 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.

    2. Children in 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.

    3. Minority Language Children

    The numeracy and literacy/language skills of 48% 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.

    4. Children who do not Acquire Good Literacy Skills because of a
Failure of Instruction

    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.

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