Tuesday, November 29, 2005

Towards a Fully Literate Canada (and other news)

Hey SFLO readers!

Three pieces of info/news to share with you today.

1. Anyone out there interested in volunteering to design a logo for Students for Literacy in Ottawa? If so, let us know!

2. Got another email today about the Rec Hall publication - courtesy of Carleton Clubs and Societies. Info here for those interested:

“Stand in The Truth of Who You Are”
Put your creativity to good use!!!

REC Hall is looking for any creative writers who are interested in submitting pieces for this year’s REC Interlock Magazine! Any poems, articles, short stories, recipes, artwork, photographs, or anything else relating to race, ethnicity, or cultural issues are welcome!

Send your work or any questions to Candice and Stacia at: rec_hall@cusaonline.com, candicecallender@hotmail.com, ssahi@connect.carleton.ca

OR visit the REC HALL office at:
316A Unicentre Bldg.
Entry space is limited!
Submission Deadline: December 16th, 2005

3. Was surfing around the web today and realized that a new report came out last week. Apparently, the Minister of State for Human Resources Development appointed a Ministerial Advisory Committee on Literacy and Essential Skills to “to offer the Minister of State advice informing the development of a comprehensive literacy and essential skills strategy.”

It reported November 25. They are calling upon the Federal Government to take an immediate leadership role in the development of a comprehensive Pan-Canadian Literacy Strategy. The report is available HERE.

In other federal government news, the Finance Minister`s recent Economic Update on November 14th, 2005 also had a bit in it on literacy (I understand how some of you might have missed it among all the other items listed - as one blog I read stated - "If any member of the voting public has not yet received a grant, or an increase to a pre-existing grant, then they really didn't read through this week's press releases. You're eligible, trust me"). At any rate, he called for the development of “… a national literacy strategy with provinces and territories”.

Given we are now in election mode, thinking I may start perusing the campaign material from the parties to see if any of them have anything to say about the state of literacy in Canada. I'll let you know what I find!


Saturday, November 26, 2005

Carleton and U Ottawa events update

How's THAT for harmony on the blog!

Dear fellow clubs,

Race, Ethnicity, and Culture Hall (REC Hall) is putting out our annual
magazine called Interlock to promote diversity and acceptance amongst Carleton students and the broader community. We would like to ask for your assistance in promoting our call for submissions by forwarding this email and the attached flyer to all of your club members.

Submissions should be on topics relating to REC Hall's core themes of race, ethnicity, and cultural diversity, however the format is open to all forms of creative expression ie. poems, photographs, or even personal experiences. All pieces must be received by December 16, 2005.

We thank you for your cooperation in fostering appreciation of diversity on our campus.

Emeka Ekwosimba /Arjun Saraf
REC Hall -Administrative/Programming Coordinators
Carleton University Students' Association,
316A Unicentre Bldg.
1125 Colonel By Dr.
Ottawa, ON. K1B 5S6
Phone: (613) 520 - 2600 ext 1621
Fax: (613) 520 - 3704


A Company of Fools | Fools.ca -

Shakespeare's Danish Play

Start: Thu, 2005-12-15 07:30
Location: Academic Hall - University of Ottawa
December 15-17, 20-23, 27-31
Academic Hall Theatre
135 Seraphin Marion (Wilbrod St. on the University of Ottawa Campus)
7:30 PM evening shows
2 PM Saturday Matinees
Tickets: $20 Adults, $15 Students & Seniors

Thursday, November 24, 2005

Ottawa U Club events update

Hey everyone,

This was sent to us by one of our fellow Ottawa U clubs. Contact info at the bottom should any of you need more info:

Hi Guys

My name is Mark Fry and I e-mailing from the Art of Living Club. We are having an event Tuesday the 29th at 7 pm. 'Kick Back and Give Back'. It is an event where students can come and relax before exams. We will have a little music, yoga, breathing and meditation. We are charging $5, which will be donated to the at risk street youth of Ottawa.

Mark Fry


From their poster (I still haven't figured out if I can link to PFD files, but it`s really nice):





Event in 90 University Lounge on Tuesday, Nov. 29 at 7:00 pm

2005 Report Card on Child Poverty

Okay, UNICEF has come out with its Child Poverty in Rich Countries update. The whole report is available HERE.

We've talked previously on this blog about the links between Literacy and Poverty. For those interested, you can check out there previous post on the issue HERE. Among the figures outlined in the report:

- 1.2 million Canadian children live in poverty, almost one in six children.
- Of 26 developed countries, Canada ranks 19th for the percentage of children who live below the poverty line. Canada ranks ahead of the United States but behind most of Europe, Japan and Australia. Denmark ranks best.

Here are some of the other highlights from today's news coverage:

DATE: 2005.11.24


TORONTO -- Highlights from Decision Time for Canada: Let's Make Poverty History, the 2005 Report Card on Child Poverty in Canada from Campaign 2000:

-- Poor families are very poor. A lone parent and child in a large city need $24,475 annually to meet basic needs. They receive on average $14,875.

-- Poor children rely on food banks. 41 per cent used food banks last year.

-- A job is no ticket out of poverty. 48 per cent of all poor children live in families with parents who are employed year round.

-- Aboriginal, immigrant, visible minority and disabled children are most likely to be poor. 49 per cent of children in recent immigrant families; 40 per cent of off reserve Aboriginal children; 33 per cent of visible minority children; and 28 per cent of children with disabilities live in poverty compared to the national rate of 18 per cent.

-- The gap has widened between the richest and poorest families. The richest 10 per cent of families with children now earn $13 for every $1 earned by the poorest 10 per cent.

-- Government policies matter: British Columbia has the highest incidence of child poverty at 23.9 per cent. Quebec's investments in families have seen its rate steadily decline since 1996.

-- Canada's a child poverty laggard. UNICEF ranks Canada a dismal 19th out of the 26 OECD countries.

Tuesday, November 22, 2005

Literacy Opens a Brighter World

An adult literacy volunteer from Toronto`s views about what she does...

DATE: 2005.11.22

Literacy opens a brighter world I thought I would teach my students great literature, but they really needed to read recipes and get their driver's licences.

IRENE DAVIS Memories from 15 years as a volunteer tutor in adult literacy include the following.

Bob had a broken ankle and couldn't come to the library where the program is based. I went to his house; his mom stuffed me full of Italian fruit bread and insisted I take a loaf home.

Jeannie telling me: "I was blind and now I see." We had just eaten the cinnamon buns she had made at home after learning how to read well enough to follow the recipe. Months later, long after she had left the program, I found myself being hugged at the bus stop.

Tom's letter to me, written as part of an exit assessment in which the co-ordinator told him to write anything he likes: "You have made me taller in life." Like many people, I had never realized that a large section of the population was functionally illiterate, nor had known that adult literacy programs existed. Then I attended a writers' conference, where a speaker from Frontier College -- a Canada-wide volunteer literacy organization, which I also had no idea existed -- addressed a session, described the need and I was hooked. I looked for a program in my area and found the library.

When I began as a volunteer with the program I had grand visions of opening the wide world of books to my learners, awakening a love for reading such as I had had since my father taught me to read, when I was three years old. Instead, I found myself helping people learn to function: at home, in the supermarket, at work.

Imagine not being able to do something most of us take for granted.

Think of everything we do that involves reading and writing, and then imagine the plight of those who have difficulty with these functions. Grocery shopping becomes a matter of looking at the pictures on the cans and packages and hoping what's inside is what you want.

Getting around town means memorizing landmarks because you can't read street signs or bus and subway stops. Taking medicine is hazardous because you can't understand the labels or dosages. Driving a car is not possible because you can't pass the written driver's test.

Reading to your child? Forget it. Notes from school, work-related memos and instructions, banking -- all present enormous difficulty.

There are only so many times you can pretend to have forgotten your glasses.

Writing? A nightmare. Filling out forms, whether job applications, required forms in doctors' offices or government forms is an exercise in frustration. At work, there are reports, memos and telephone messages. Even those with basic writing skills get hung up on grammar and spelling, sometimes to the point of making what they write unintelligible, and always leaving them open to censure from their supervisors.

Eventually, these frustrations drive people to an adult literacy program. People with low literacy skills often work in low-level, unsatisfying jobs; a prime motivator for them is to be able to get a better job. Others come because they want to be able to read to their children and help them with homework; still others because they are tired of feeling stupid.

There are many reasons for their lack of skills. Some do come from another country, but many born Canadians have fallen through the cracks as well.

Perhaps there was a vision or hearing problem that was never picked up and the child therefore was not able to absorb what was being taught.

Perhaps the family moved a lot, involving several changes of school, and the teachers simply did not pay enough attention.

Perhaps the child just needed more time to absorb concepts. Teachers often taught to suit the average student and those above and below did not get the attention and challenges they needed.

Whatever their reasons for being there, as we work together they begin to open up, to see that they can do this. They develop achievable goals: to do their own banking and shopping; to follow a recipe; to fill out a form; to understand work orders and memos; to read to a child; to write notes to the child's teacher; to pass a driver's test; to write a letter to a friend.

As we work toward their goals, I point out their progress.

"Look back at what you could do when you came, and look at what you can do now," I tell them. And I watch their self-esteem grow.

As it grows, they take charge of the process. "I want to learn this, and that. I want to learn and learn and learn." And learn they do.

I learn, too. I learn about myself: that I can do this, that I am a good teacher. I can tune in to my learners' needs and way of learning and connect with them, challenging them and presenting material in a way they can understand.

I also learn from my learners. They are interesting people. We have philosophical discussions, some triggered when I assign an opinion essay, others just part of the conversation. Some have let me into their lives, confiding, and in some cases writing about, family problems. I appreciate and cherish this trust.

It's hard to believe 15 years have gone by since I started doing this. At a volunteer recognition event I was asked why I have continued in the program for such an extraordinarily long time.

"I've never lost interest," I replied. And I doubt that I ever will.

Irene Davis Lives in Toronto.

Monday, November 21, 2005

Carleton Clubs Updates

Hey again - this was in my Carleton inbox courtesy of the Rights and Democracy Club. Also be sure to check out other Carleton Club Activities on their events site HERE.

Anyway, from Rights and Democracy....:

Christmas jingles starting to drive you insane..............?
The following events will make you want to sing along whatever your religion....
Check em out.

1) Forget the bling and go for a donkey.
Want to put smiles on lots of faces this holiday season? Give a gift that always fits – to relatives, friends or colleagues. Purchase a donkey in their name.

Why a donkey?
A donkey can literally transform life for families in Africa. Donkeys can carry water, freeing up children so they can go to school. Donkeys help transport goods to market so that parents can earn more income to buy food and other necessities for their family.

It's easy. simply go to CHF (Formally the Canadian Hunger Foundation)'s site https://secure.jmgsolutions.ca/chf/donatenow6.asp?id=CHF and purchase a donkey.

2) Second Annual Christmas Extravanganza: Benefit for the Homeless

COSMIC JUICE / TIM's MYTH / DJ Rick "The Plant" hosted by Trevor Thompson.

7:30 pm, Zaphod Beeblebrox, 27 York Street, Ottawa, Ontario

Our goal is to buy Christmas meals for 500 homeless people in Ottawa. Your ticket will pay for 3 meals.

For full details go to http://www.homelessbenefit.com/

3) Stephen Lewis, United Nations Special Envoy for HIV/AIDS in Africa, will be speaking about "Where in the World is the World Headed?" at Carleton University on November 22, at 7:30 p.m., when he delivers the fifth annual Sun Life Financial Lecture.

Lewis will make a panoramic sweep of international affairs with a focus on globalization, conflict, poverty, and disease.

The talk will take place in the Bell Theatre, Minto Centre, and is free and open to the public. Seating is limited.

Please RSVP to sunlifefinancial@carleton.ca.

The Sun Life Financial Lecture series showcases the humanities and liberal arts, and is hosted by the Faculty of Arts and Social Science at Carleton. It is funded by Sun Life Financial.

That's all for now, have a great weekend!



More on the Literacy Stats

Hey folks - two pieces of interest today. First about the literacy stats and the need for material relevant and appropriate for adult learners and the fact that one needs to assist adults as well as children because when parents are more literate their children tend to be as well.

Second piece on Claudette Bradshaw (The Federal "Literacy Minister") and the national literacy strategy that should be coming at some stage... A second story about her, also in the Nov. 19 Moncton Times and Transcript, profiled her because she isn't running again.



PUBLICATION: The Fredericton Daily Gleaner
DATE: 2005.11.19

Educational texts not relevant to adult students

Almost half of all Canadians are undereducated and an internationally recognized educator says it's because educational materials are not relevant to students.

Tom Sticht, the first adult literacy specialist elected to the U.S. Reading Hall of Fame and recipient in 2003 of UNESCO's Mahatma Gandhi medal, addressed educators and students Friday at the St. Thomas University Conference Centre on Forest Hill Road.

Referring to Statistics Canada figures released last week, Sticht said 42 per cent of Canadians are undereducated.

"There's a discrepancy in the number of adults who need literacy education and the less than 10 per cent of those who realize they need more education," he said.

"There is little awareness on the part of undereducated adults for basic-needs education."

There are programs designed to address literacy needs, he said, but educational materials don't appear to be relevant to those being taught.

Sticht said he studied more than 100 years of academic research related to teaching. He said he found some educators who consider relevance and context.

"Professional wisdom provides support for functional context education," Sticht said.

That means there's enough supporting evidence to show literacy education has to be designed with a view to being relevant to students' lives.

"Lately there has been a tendency by educators to shift away from addressing the needs of the people with the lowest education level," he said. "People who are undereducated, including those who don't have a high school education, have been ignored."

Sticht said the focus has been put on people with high education levels.

"So the functional context has been torn apart," he said.

"We have to remember there are people with low levels of education, and when we design courses and programs, we have to make them relevant to real life rather than treating adult learners as children."

Sticht said the need for more education has never been greater.

"When they (adults) are educated that improves the chances that their children will pursue more education," he said.

Traditionally the problem of under-education has been tackled by improving programs in schools "but we've been ignoring their parents," he said.

Sticht said educators need to look at education in terms of a life-cycles perspective.

"If we ignore the lowest educated people then we will perpetuate existing problems," he said.

"We just have to start doing things differently if we want different results," said Jan Greer, executive director of the Literacy Coalition of New Brunswick.

Greer said Sticht pointed out the need to adopt a new mindset for educating the under-educated.

"We have to make learning materials a part of the goals of the learner," she said. "It has to be relevant."

Greer said the level of education directly impacts an individual or family's ability to work and acquire wealth.

"It's a matter of economy and productivity," she said.

Greer said in the past 10 years the literacy abilities of New Brunswickers in the post secondary education bracket diminished by four per cent.

"We should examine what we are doing and why it isn't working," she said.

There are 12 million Canadians with low literacy levels and 325,000 of them live in New Brunswick and are over the age of 16, Greer said.

She said the majority of them are unemployed, receiving social assistance benefits or earning low pay.

"There should be some shame in that," Greer said. "New Brunswick has the highest number of people with low literacy skills," she said. Newfoundland is next followed by Prince Edward Island.

With a low-literacy skill level of 40 per cent, Nova Scotia ranks lowest in Atlantic Canada and is also lower than the national average of 48 per cent of adults over the age of 16 with low-literacy skills.


PUBLICATION: The Moncton Times and Transcript
DATE: 2005.11.19
BYLINE: Jorge Barrera Times & Transcript staff

Poor literacy numbers, an old story says MP ; Claudette Bradshaw hopes to work to reverse province's low performance

Moncton-Riverview-Dieppe Liberal MP Claudette Bradshaw said she is not surprised by New Brunswick's weak literacy rates and is hoping to work with the province to reverse the trend.

Bradshaw, who is minister of state for literacy, said a national literacy strategy is currently being crafted, and needs the provinces onside to make it work.

But the dismal numbers have been around for years, she said.

"I have been in the business of community and non-profit organizations for 36 years and it doesn't surprise me at all. We have to go out now and the numbers are there and we have to work with these numbers," said Bradshaw.

According to Statistics Canada, 56 per cent of people in New Brunswick over 16 years-of-age have sub-par reading levels. Bradshaw said she has received data that shows 62 per cent of English-speakers in the province have reading problems and 58 per cent of French-speakers have sub-par literacy skills.

There needs to be more data, however, to adequately gauge the situation on the ground, said Bradshaw. There are no numbers to measure how many people have a Grade 12 education but an elementary school reading level or how many people in New Brunswick suffer from fetal alcohol syndrome or fetal alcohol effect.

Bradshaw said the literacy file has put her in familiar terrain.

"What I have been doing is near to my heart. Literacy is my people," said Bradshaw, who recently met famed Montreal Canadiens coach Jacques Demers, who admitted he could neither read nor write.

Sunday, November 20, 2005

Canada's 100 Most Important Books

The Literary Review of Canada has released its listing of Canada's 100 Most Important Books. (Are your favourites on it?)

Wednesday, November 16, 2005

SFLO November Newsletter

Here it is!!!!


Hi there! Students for Literacy Ottawa has much to celebrate after a fantastic launch this Fall. All of our programs are now in motion and, as this newsletter’s program updates will tell you, our volunteers and learners are having a blast.

This month’s highlight is a celebratory pub night on Sunday, November 27th, at 8:00pm at the Royal Oak on Laurier. Details are included below.

You’ll also want to take note of the dates where our programs will “pause” for exams and the holiday season.

Thanks again for all the energy and ideas you’ve contributed to this Fall’s Ottawa programs! Give yourself a pat on the back, a thumbs up in the mirror, and a big piece of chocolate. (You deserve them all!)




And now, a word from our Program Coordinators… (Warning: the words that follow are incredibly encouraging and enthusiastic. Read at your own discretion.)

The Centretown Scoop

The Centretown Community Health Centre Reading Circle is half-way through its 8-week run, and we're still having fun! We see up to 5 children along with their caregivers each week: 1 girl and 4 boys ranging in age from 18 months to 3 years. We now have our full contingent of volunteer readers which means that we get to interact 1-on-1 with our young attendees. They are a varied group: one native English speaker, one East Indian, and the rest with a first language of Arabic or Somali. Even the shy ones are comfortable in our cozy room, and join in when we read a lively action book or two, to start the day.

Our "regulars" eagerly check out each week's selection of books, choose a few for us to read, and the time goes quickly by.

Although attendance is down now that the cold weather is here, hopefully the warmth of our welcome will keep 'em coming. Our last day is December 6th and we'll celebrate in fitting fashion by introducing them to Canadians' snack of choice: Timbits.

--Lorna McCrea, Program Coordinator

“Can We Come Back Tomorrow?”

Our Tuesday afternoon homework club at Sawmill Creek Elementary School launched on November 1. I’m not sure who was more excited: the tutors or the learners!

Feedback has been fantastic. Last week, one of our tutors excitedly reported: “My learner did all his homework! He had a lot! But he just got right to work and we got it all done! I was so impressed!”

The word from the learners is equally enthusiastic: “This is fun! I want to do this every night! Can we come back tomorrow?”

--Lyndsay Buehler, Program Coordinator

Can you say FUN???

The Reception House Reading Circle got off to a great start on October 25th. With 10 - 12 participants each week the 5 volunteers have jumped right in in both official languages. One-on-one reading, flash cards, scrabble, dot-to-dot; you name it, we've done it and it's only been 3 weeks. The picture bingo was a sure hit with the older crowd. What better way to increase one's vocabulary than to play full-contact Picture Bingo? Some day this game will become an olympic sport! It really is rewarding to listen to the children having so much fun. Yes, the Reception House Reading Circle is off to a tremendous start.

– Joan Ryan, RC Coordinator

“Going Global” Each Saturday

The Rideau Library Reading Circle began October 22 with six volunteers. Our returning volunteers bring a wealth of experience back to the program and our new volunteers have brought many new ideas with them. Thank you to everyone who chose to volunteer at the Rideau Circle.

So far this year, we have sent postcards to some of our volunteers from last year currently traveling abroad and have started Learning Passports – a fun new way to document the progress of our learners. We are still looking for children for our program. The program is free and for children 4-8. Anyone wishing more information should contact Lyndsay at 294-9419 or Ottawa@frontiercollege.ca.

Keep Reading!

-Louise Hayes, Program Coordinator

The Word at 88 Main Street

The 88 Main Street Reading Circle started up on October 29. The volunteers and the learners were all very eager to do some reading, crafts and games. A big thank you goes out to the Sandy Hill Community Health Centre who have again this year provided Frontier College with a comfortable room, free of charge, for our Reading Circle activities. They have also advertised our Reading Circle in the local community newspaper and local schools. We are confident this will generate a heightened awareness of the Reading Circle activities, and encourage more parents to enroll their children for this great Saturday afternoon get together.

–Cathy Bernier, Program Coordinator


Dates of Note

Dayplanner, Blackberry, Post-Its, or the back of your hand: whatever you use to record important bits of info, you’ll want to have it at the ready.

Below are key dates to note for SFLO in November and December.

November 27 (Sunday) – 8:00pm
PUB NIGHT! (@ THE OAK ON LAURIER) Last month, free nachos were involved! Who knows what kind of crazy volunteer appreciation will happen this time? You won’t want to miss this night. Come out to bust some pre-exam stress….and bring your Scrabble tiles!


Program Last Day/Re-Start Date

Centretown Dec. 5th ‘05
Sawmill Creek Nov. 29th ‘05 Jan. 17th ‘06
Reception House Nov. 25th ‘05 Jan. 20th ‘06
Rideau Library Dec. 3rd ‘05 Jan. 21st ‘06
88 Main Dec. 3rd ‘05 Jan. 21st ‘06
Arch Street ------ Jan. 19th ‘06

2006 PREVIEW….

Keep your calendars cleared for our Literacy Conference on Saturday, January 14th. This is a day of workshops and networking that is free for all of our volunteers. More details will follow, but you’ll want to keep 9:00am to 4:00pm on this day reserved for this special treat.


Exam time’s almost here! A few websites for our pals in procrastination land….

1. The Lint Project

2. Virtual Bubble Wrap

3. Best Daily Cartoon on the Internet

Psst! Did you know that we have a blog?

If you didn’t, I’m sure you’ll want to check it out! Find all the latest news related to SFLO at: http://studentsforliteracyottawa@blogspot.com

We have a Yahoo group, too!

Join our Yahoo! group and gain instant access to volunteer resources, news updates via e-mail, and even message board discussions with fellow volunteers. If you need help signing up, please let Lyndsay know by e-mailing Ottawa@frontiercollege.ca

Tuesday, November 15, 2005

Fuel a fondness for reading

DATE: 2005.11.14
CATEGORY: Lifestyles

Parents and children can fuel a mutual fondness for reading

NEW YORK (AP) _ Literacy is a life lesson _ beginning at the first cry or coo, and basically never ending _ so to get people psyched up for something that can seem daunting, it's best to get them hooked young.

Reading aloud to infants, toddlers, preschoolers and then schoolchildren and beyond might be the best bait, says Dawnene D. Hassett, assistant professor at the University of Wisconsin-Madison in the department of curriculum and instruction.

She says that more than 30 years of research about early literacy all points to having adults read to children as the first step toward success.

``Oral language development is so important for early literacy success,'' says Hassett. ``When you read books when kids are young, the tangible benefits last through at least the fourth grade. Hearing books with rich language develops vocabulary, new concepts, a sense of story and how books work.''

She adds: ``One of the big problems in schools for young children is if they don't have experience with books. It makes the early years in school that much more challenging.''

Publications International, a publisher of children's books and creator of Story Reader, an interactive preschool book line, is launching an initiative called Family Reading Night. It encourages families to spend one night a week reading with each other.

``There's no wrong way to do it. ... It's like asking `Are you for world peace or a strong economy?''' says Kerry Cunnion, a company executive vice-president. ``The difference is that you do anything about those things as an individual. You can do something here.''

In his own household in suburban Chicago, the power to choose the book for the 60-minute family reading night belongs to Cunnion's four-year-old daughter.

``I have three teenage boys. It would require an act of Congress for them to do something as a family if I asked, but she did the invitations for them to come to her `reading club' _ and they came.''

Publications International conducted a poll of 800 parents in October, 77 per cent of whom said that books had the most positive influence on their own childhood compared to other forms of media.

Ninety-four per cent of the parents also said they'd read to their children for one hour a week if they thought that reading more at home would improve school performance, yet nine per cent said currently no parent in the household ever reads to the children. Twenty-four per cent said they read ``occasionally.''

``Parents have to be the initiator, but once they get it going, it'll just take off and reading will be part of these kids' lives,'' says Cunnion.

Hassett, a former elementary school teacher and reading specialist, notes that children who are struggling with their reading skills are more likely to seek help at home when they're away from their peers.

``Start with those very little books, which don't do much in comprehension but that builds with the size of the book and the vocabulary of the child,'' she suggests. ``A family reading experience, no matter what the age of the kids, is great. You can even read textbooks with older children.''

The evolution of strong readers usually begins with the aforementioned oral skills, especially rhyming, according to Hassett. From there, children learn concepts of print, letter naming and phonics.

Fluency and comprehension come next, followed by the reading-writing connection.

The last piece of the puzzle is engagement and interest in reading, which, it is hoped, will last long beyond the grade-school years, Hassett says. Enjoying books with youngsters certainly might remind grown-ups about one of the lost loves in their own busy lives, she adds.

Carleton Club Community Announcement

Hey all,

In an effort to reach out to our Carleton Club Community - here`s a plug for a Human Right's club event:

Sat. Nov. 19th
Mike's Place (2nd floor Carleton University Centre)

Featuring DJ's and a silent art auction

Doors open at 9pm
$3 cover
proceeds go to Carleton Journalists for Human Rights

Contact info: carletonjhr@gmail.com, www.carleton.ca/jhr

The Krunken Master - hip hop
Sympton - old skool r&b / jungle
Rcin 'n' Charly - breaks

Silent ART AUCTION - canvasses by some of the finest local artists:
Lits, Codak, Eric Chan, Sexek, Figment, Ziploc, Jerk1, Daser, Cens. Mest and Nalls

Monday, November 14, 2005

New tutor Yahoo Group!

Hey all you tutors and friends of Frontier College/Students for Literacy in Ottawa.

We recently set up a Yahoo Group for tutors to help communicate and exchange ideas. Check it out here: http://groups.yahoo.com/group/sflotutors/

Basically, this is our info source for active and/or interested volunteers, community partners, and anybody else interested in literacy issues.

Mem Fox in Calgary

At training when we covered Reading Theory - we pulled from a book by Australian author Mem Fox. Turns out she was in Calgary recently for a literacy conference. Story here:

PUBLICATION: Calgary Herald
DATE: 2005.11.14
BYLINE: Joanne Good

Making writing real

To hear famed Australian children's author Mem Fox read one of her stories is to watch adults -- including a couple of university professors -- wriggle in their seats with laughter, anticipation and tears.

The author of the now classic Possum Magic, Time for Bed and the bring-you-to-tears Wilfred Gordon McDonald Partridge, Fox commands an audience with the voice of a trained actress, the sensibility of a university instructor and the soul of a storytelling parent.

What she is equally famous for is assaulting the endlessly "stupid" ways parents and teachers have tried to pass on the skills of literacy with sorry results.

In a disarmingly funny tirade on truly stupid tactics, Fox targets fill-in-the-blanks worksheets, basal readers and ill-conceived assignments, such as requiring a student to describe an apple to a blind person.

To better understand how a kid -- or anyone -- learns to write better, Fox poses three questions about any writing task:

1. Why do we write? (And not just because a teacher said so or to get grades.)

2. Which situation makes us want to write in the first place?

3. What are the implications of our writing?

The answer to the first question is investment, she offers. People -- big and small -- write to move others to the writer's way of thinking, to earn money, to let off steam, to protest wrongs, to make people laugh and to get much needed groceries at the store.

The answer to the second question is reality. "If it doesn't matter in our real lives, we don't do it.

"No surprise, nothing real comes out of a worksheet."

The answer to the third question is "to create a reaction."

Children learn to talk by talking to someone who responds. "They must, therefore, learn to write by writing to someone who responds," Fox said at the recent Hats Off To Literacy conference in Calgary.

The more important the audience is to us, the greater the investment we have, the better we write, she explains.

Writing tasks that meet this trio of requirements will be a joy to read. These missives will move people and -- whether this matters or not -- they will win a grade that might be useful as a student proceeds through school.

There is one exception, Fox conceded. "Sometimes, the relationship with the teacher is so strong, they love the teacher and want to impress the teacher, they will even do a nutcase assignment to please the teacher."

But only when students write for real reasons do they learn to write for real, says the author.

As a former teacher of literacy studies at Flinders University in Adelaide, Australia, Fox says she did her best teaching when she required student-teachers to perform their writing.

"Dreading the imminent and real audience -- such as a nearby classroom of kids -- galvanized them into quite a different sort of action. They ached with caring about the response and rehearsed for hours outside class times."

The more real and important the audience, says Fox, the more a child or adult writer will strive to make that audience laugh, cry, or change their attitudes.

Fox calls it the hope and fear factor.

"Hope and fear is attached to the audience, and without a very good audience in mind, writing is shabby."

So, as teachers assign projects such as posters, invitations to speakers, plays, thank you speeches and poems, they can teach about writing to the audience by making it knee-shaking real, Fox advises.

"You might say, 'Remember Johnny next door. He's a tough critic and we really want to impress him. We don't want to be boring, so let's go over our writing and draft and draft and make it good.' "

When writing is made authentic, it will serve other important purposes, too, says the author of 29 children's picture books.

"Writing, when it is reality based, when students are allowed to discover this and invited to let off steam as therapy, once it becomes a possibility, one or two children, who knows, especially a boy, might be saved from depression or suicide because he can write it out."

When teachers and parents help to develop powerful writing, students begin to take control of their lives, she insists.

"Please give students real world assignments. We have to show them there are other things we can write about -- and lead them far, far away from worksheets."

Reading and Writing Tips From Author Mem Fox

- "Read at least three stories a day. It may be the same story, three times. Children need to hear a thousand stories before they can begin to learn to read."

- "Read aloud with animation. Listen to your voice and don't be dull, or flat or boring. Hang loose and be loud, have fun and laugh a lot."

- Never, ever, teach reading or get tense around books.

- Read aloud every day because you just love being with your child, not because it's the right thing to do. This is as important for fathers as it is for mothers.

- Linger and listen to Mem Fox read aloud with tips on how to read with animation at her website, www.memfox.com or www.memfox.net.

- Reading Magic: Why Reading Aloud To Our Children Will Change Their Lives Forever by Mem Fox (Harcourt, 2001) is a primer for parents.

- Mem Fox books are found at independent bookstores such as MonkeyShines in Marda Loop and Owl's Nest Bookstore in Britannia.

Friday, November 11, 2005

Carleton Campus Announcements

Hi there,

Two announcements of possible interest courtesy of my Carleton inbox:

1. The Circle K Club at Carleton is organizing a poker tournament for charity. Circle K organizes fundraising events for charity, and the proceeds of the poker tournament will go to the Ottawa Heart Institute.

The details area as follows:

When: Sunday, November 20th - be there at 10 a.m.
Where: 4th floor Dunton Tower
Entry: $10 gets you buy-in and lunch
Contact: Andrew Paterson at apaterso@connect.carleton.ca

Our last tournament in March had 80 playeres, this time we're hoping for more! Be one of those players!


Students can now support the campus United Way and earthquake relief campaigns by purchasing a $5 "I Care - Carleton Cares" bracelet.

Visit: http://www.carleton.ca/cares/unitedway/bracelets.html

Thursday, November 10, 2005

New Literacy Stats Out

PUBLICATION: Montreal Gazette
DATE: 2005.11.10

Read it and weep: West leads the country in literacy: Skill levels have not improved in Canada since the last survey was carried out in 1994

Western Canadians have their eastern counterparts beat when it comes to reading.

British Columbia, Alberta, Saskatchewan and Yukon are the provinces with the highest literacy rates, according to a Statistics Canada survey released yesterday.

But nearly half of all Canadians age 16 and over, or about 12 million people, don't have the literacy skills to fully function in society, such as reading newspapers, instruction manuals or brochures.

New Brunswick, Nunavut and Newfoundland and Labrador have the highest percentage of residents who fail to meet basic reading comprehension requirements, the survey revealed.

"It's a phenomenally high number and most people won't even believe it," said Jim Pollock, director of communications at ABC CANADA Literacy Foundation.

Quebec was the only province to show significant variance in performance across the four areas evaluated in the survey.

In numeracy and problem solving, Quebec's average scores were about the same as the national average. For the two literacy categories, Quebec averaged below the national level.

In prose literacy, for example, only 45.4 per cent of Quebecers had a proficiency of Level 3 or higher. That compares with 52.4 per cent of all Canadians.

Level 3 is considered the degree of competence needed to cope with the increasing skill demands of the emerging knowledge and information economy.

In the numeracy category, 41.1 per cent of Quebecers achieved Level 3 or higher, compared with 44.8 per cent of all Canadians.

One of the survey's most surprising finds is that literacy levels in Canada haven't improved since the last survey in 1994. In both cases, two in five adults between 16 and 65 scored below the minimum literacy level needed to function in everyday life.

Experts had predicted that as older, more uneducated workers retired, post-secondary enrollment went up and the number of new immigrants with higher levels of education increased, so too would the country's average reading comprehension.

But that wasn't the case, and experts are at a loss to explain exactly why. Evidence does show, however, a void in terms of programs aimed at improving literacy skills of Canadians, said Jean Pignal of Statistics Canada. "It's pretty clear that's what needs to be done to move the literacy bar," he said.

More than 23,000 Canadians age 16 and over participated in the survey, conducted in 2003.

The survey seems to confirm what experts believed: If people don't read and write on a regular basis, they begin to forget how.

The survey found immigrants and aboriginal people - particularly those whose first language isn't French or English - have some of the poorest literacy skills in the country.

For instance, more than half the aboriginal population of Yukon, 69 per cent in the Northwest Territories and 88 per cent of the Inuit in Nunavut failed to meet basic reading comprehension requirements.

And 60 per cent of immigrants fell below the basic requirements, compared with 37 per cent of people born in Canada.

Paradoxically, literacy scores were highest in the Yukon, which has a high proportion of people of working age and employed as professionals compared with other parts of Canada.

Ottawa Citizen

Wednesday, November 09, 2005

Lieutenant-Governor of Ontario's Literacy Initiatives

Further to a previous posting on this blog - here is a news piece on LG Bartleman's literacy initiatives - bringing books to aboriginal children in remote Northern-Ontario reserves. Lyndsay and I had the chance to meet and talk with Mr. Bartleman this summer in Toronto at the Frontier College Summer Leadership Forum.



DATE: 2005.11.08

Literacy and education divide aboriginals and non-aboriginals, Bartleman says

LONDON, Ont. (CP) _ Greater gaps than water quality exist between aboriginal and non-aboriginal Canadians, says Ontario's lieutenant-governor.

The Kashechewan water crisis is ``an appalling, disgusting situation,'' James Bartleman said Tuesday while in London for the fall opening of the courts.

But larger issues remain to achieve social and economic equality, said Bartleman, a member of the Mnjikaning First Nation.

``Even more important than the water situation...is literacy and education,'' he said.

The Kashechewan water situation illustrates the ``Third World conditions'' which exist in Canada, Bartleman said.

But though the northern Ontario community of 1,900 _ recently evacuated when high levels of E. coli bacteria were found in the water _ has garnered national attention, the water crisis shouldn't overshadow other important challenges aboriginals face, he said.

``We as society have a long way to go,'' said Bartleman.

In the past three years, the Orillia, Ont., native has helped get more than 850,000 books to aboriginal communities, including Kashechewan.

``Ontarians want to help,'' he said. ``We just have to find the right way of doing it.''

Human Rights Mixer at Carleton

For any of our interested Carleton Students - FYI

Human Rights Mixer
November 10, 2005 --> 6:30pm-8:00pm --> Mike's Place

The Rights and Democracy Delegation of Carleton University is hosting the first ever human rights mixer of all clubs and societies who deal broadly with human rights issues. Light snacks will be provided. Let's learn about the differences between the clubs, and work together to coordinate our activities. For details: rightsanddemocracy@gmail.com
(Certified Club Event)

Tuesday, November 08, 2005

Interview with John O'Leary - FC President & other news

Hi everyone,

Thought you might be interested to know that Frontier College's president - John O'Leary - was interviewed on CTV yesterday. As a point of note, he makes reference to a story posted here last week about a recent study which said that reading to your children at bed-time does not help improve their literacy (he disagrees with that study). The transcript is below. Also below is an article in Saturday's Kitchener-Waterloo Record - starts local, but goes on to give a good overview of the links between illiteracy and poverty and the challenges those with poor literacy and numeracy skills face in trying to find employment.

DATE: 2005.11.07
TIME: 08:39:00 ET
END: 08:43:30 ET

"Giller Light": a night to celebrate literacy

O'REGAN: The issue of literacy in Canada came to the forefront last week when Canadian hockey icon Jacques Demers announced that he has been illiterate all of his life. And he told us that here on Canada AM. Even more shocking, it is estimated that 42 percent of Canadians between the age of 16 and 65 have difficulty reading and writing, while 15 percent can't read or write at all.

Joining us now with more on this very troubling issue is the president of Frontier College, John O'Leary.

John, good to have you here.

O'LEARY: Good morning.

O'REGAN: It was shocking for many people in the country to have Jacques come out and say that. He was on our show. And it was quite emotional, actually, for everybody who was watching, for us here and for him. Do you think that resonated at all? Do you think this was --

O'LEARY: Absolutely. It's going to have -- or is having -- a very positive impact. We've certainly received calls from people who read the story and have decided they want to do something about it themselves. And he deserves tremendous credit for speaking out in this way. I hope he'll continue to do so.

O'REGAN: But these numbers are shocking. Shocking.

O'LEARY: They are. But we've known these numbers for over ten years, since 1990, when the OECD and Stats Canada did a study about literacy. We discovered that there are five levels of literacy. The bottom two levels where people have the most need, about 15-20 percent are in level one and another 22 percent on level two, which is over 40 percent of adult Canadians have some needs with literacy. O'REGAN: How do we stack up against other countries? We've got one of the highest standards of living in the world. And yet we have this problem with illiteracy. I don't understand. Square that circle for me.

O'LEARY: Modern literacy studies, as I say, began in the late '80s, early '90s. All the Western countries -- Western European countries and North America -- are very similar: about 40 percent of citizens in all the countries need some help with reading and writing. The one exception is the Scandinavian countries who scored very, very high -- right at the top -- for some reason. Culturally, I think.

O'REGAN: I know we've got a board there with some of the reasons for illiteracy in this country. Maybe we can show that and we can talk to them. Poverty, domestic violence, poor health are three big ones. O'LEARY: Big ones.

O'REGAN: Interesting, because Jacques talked about domestic violence in his childhood.

O'LEARY: Yes, absolutely. The people we work with -- and Frontier College has been around since 1899 -- overwhelmingly come from backgrounds, some kind of troubled background -- poverty, isolation. Health is a factor. Not everyone can learn while sitting at a desk in a classroom. Different learning styles is a factor. And also there's unfortunately some bogus educational theories going on out there. And that has an impact, too.

O'REGAN: What do you mean by that?

O'LEARY: Well, last week there was a front-page story in the news about reading to your children does not necessarily help them -- which in my view is complete nonsense.

So we just need to focus on -- the good news is we do know how to teach people who don't read well. And we need to do that on a much more significant scale than we're doing right now.

O'REGAN: It's interesting you bring that up with children. As you say, this study, talking about reading to your kids may not help them read.

O'LEARY: That's nonsense.

O'REGAN: Certainly not the case for me, I know that.

O'LEARY: Yeah, exactly.

O'REGAN: Speaking anecdotally. What do we do?

O'LEARY: As a country?

O'REGAN: Yeah, as a country. Especially with kids these days with computers and video games --

O'LEARY: Yeah, the electronic culture --

O'REGAN: -- and 500 channels.

O'LEARY: Five hundred channels, having a factor, what I call "The Simpsons", it's cool to be dumb, that's having a factor.

O'REGAN: Ah, interesting.

O'LEARY: So, there's a group of educators actually meeting this week and next week with federal government officials. We're working on a national literacy action plan. And we're encouraging the federal government to show leadership and tackle this issue, launching a ten-year campaign to teach one million people over the next decade or so. It's doable and we can do it.

O'REGAN: There you go. And we're just showing it there now. Tomorrow night's the Giller Prize.


O'REGAN: You're hosting the Giller Lights.

O'LEARY: The Giller Lights.

O'REGAN: A fine tradition.

O'LEARY: A fine tradition. The founder of the Giller Prize, Jack Rabinovitch, actually taught with Frontier College when he was a student at U of T. So a few years ago a group of people in the publishing industry, the people who do the real work but don't get invited to the Giller, decided to have a fundraiser for Frontier College. Several of them were tutoring with us. And so, it's the Giller Light. This is the fourth year. We expect a crowd of over 500 people. There are still some tickets available --

O'REGAN: Oh, tickets available, okay.

O'LEARY: Talk TV will be there. And it's going to be a great night, celebrating literacy. And we're going to encourage people who are there to join us in tackling and getting involved in this issue.

O'REGAN: CTV will definitely be there. Absolutely, absolutely. And the great news is that you guys don't have to rent tuxes.

O'LEARY: No, we don't have to rent tuxes. We're much better dressed. O'REGAN: Sit back, have a beer and enjoy.

O'LEARY: It's an A-list crowd. Seamus, it's going to be a great evening.

O'REGAN: I know. It is going to be a great evening.

O'LEARY: Look at gillerlight.ca and you can still get a couple of tickets.

O'REGAN: There you go. And the Giller Prize on tomorrow night on Talk TV and later on CTV. And on Newsnet, live coverage of course, Tuesday, November 8, 9:00 p.m.

Great to talk to you.

O'LEARY: Thanks, Seamus. John O'Leary, President, Frontier College dent, Frontier College


PUBLICATION: The Record (Kitchener, Cambridge and Waterloo)
DATE: 2005.11.05

Workplaces need to take lead in building literacy

Jacques Demers grew up in a poor household and emerged as an adult who could barely read and write.

Yet he hid it well and went on to become a successful coach in the National Hockey League.


The ingenious masking of illiteracy.

These are elements in a compound problem, and while it may surprise most of us that people can function without such fundamental skills, it's not news to literacy workers.

In fact, more than half the population of Waterloo Region soldiers on at the lowest two of five literacy levels. People struggle not just with the words on this page, but with the sentences formed and ideas conveyed.

That statistic, by the way, is an old one, dating from an international literacy survey carried out in the mid-1990s.

Results from the 2003 Adult Literacy Survey are gradually coming out. Don't expect a significant change.

Literacy levels in Canada inched up only marginally among 16- to 65-year- olds. Canada ranks somewhere in the middle of the pack of participating countries.

Nationally, 58 per cent of the adult population functions within the upper three literacy levels.

Demers' accomplishments aside, the latest survey once again makes the connection between literacy and personal improvement.

The lower the level, the less likely it's going to happen.

Conducted by Statistics Canada, the US National Centre for Education Statistics and the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development, the survey found that workers with good literacy skills had a 60 per cent chance of getting a job after 16 weeks of unemployment.

After 48 weeks, the odds improved to 70 per cent, according to a Statistics Canada brief.

People functioning at the bottom two literacy levels "only had a 50 per cent chance of finding a job, even after 52 weeks of unemployment,'' the brief says.

Despite the tie low literacy has to poverty, and poverty to tax-consuming health and learning problems, literacy agencies struggle to wring cash from thick-headed decision-makers in the federal and provincial governments.

Funding for adult-literacy programs has been flatlined for almost 15 years, says Anette Chawla of the Ontario Literacy Coalition.

Family-literacy programs, meanwhile, get next to nothing in senior government support.

They bring children and parents together to relight an interest in learning that school frustrations and low literacy snuff out.

At the end of an eight-week session, most of the parent participants at least seriously consider returning to school, says Anne Ramsay of the Project Read Literacy Network of Waterloo-Wellington. The agency counts on donations and municipal grants to sustain its family-literacy work.

Project Read's website notes that one in three employers runs into basic- skills problems in the workforce. Only one in 10 sets up a workplace literacy program to help solve them.

The Conference Board of Canada hands out awards for that kind of initiative and its e-library at www.conferenceboard.ca carries a number of case studies.

It will look at the issue in reports expected to be released before the end of the year.

At a time when the need for workers with good numeracy and literacy skills is growing, interest in workplace programs seems to be slipping, says Alison Campbell, a senior research associate with the board.

On the shop floor, steady productivity depends on the ability of workers to read manuals and troubleshoot when machines break down, she said. It can hinge on something as delicate as a clear note left for the next shift.

Canada's modest improvement in literacy and numeracy over 10 years hardly rates a round of noisy high-fives. There are problems with sustained government funding. We need more workplace programs.

Demers spent 15 years as a coach and general manager.

He knows you don't win games sitting on the bench.

Christian Aagaard can be reached at 894-2250, ext. 2660, or by e-mail, caagaard@therecord.com

Boy-friendly books :)


Washington Post article of interest...

PUBLICATION: The Washington Post
DATE: 2005.11.05
BYLINE: Tara Bahrampour

Where Reading Is, Like, Cool: With Boy-Friendly Books, Alexandria School Club Aims to Cut Literacy Gap

The first book in the Cirque Du Freak series starts in a toilet and ends in a graveyard. If you're a pre-adolescent boy, that's great stuff.

It's so great that 60 or so Hammond Middle School boys could hardly contain their glee when the author of the series was introduced at a special lunch yesterday in their school library in Alexandria.

The lunch was for members of Club BILI (Boys in Literacy Initiative), an all-male after-school book club that began at Hammond three years ago to help close the literacy achievement gap between boys and girls. The club focuses on books that appeal specifically to boys and includes read-aloud sessions, visits to elementary schools to promote reading and trips to see movies based on the books they read.

The reading gap is not new. On average, boys score seven to 11 points lower than girls on standardized reading comprehension tests, and the discrepancy is not limited to the United States -- a study by the University of York in Britain found it exists in 22 countries. Scientists say boys are born with biological differences that make them read later than girls, though they eventually catch up. Boys also have a harder time sitting still for long periods, studies show.

Prevailing attitudes toward reading don't help. "Society has created an aura about reading that it's a girl thing and it doesn't fit into adolescents' persona," said Jodie Peters, a reading peer coach at the school who co-founded Club BILI after coming upon a book about the gap called Reading Don't Fix No Chevys. "We want to fight that," she said.

Often, traditional classroom literature doesn't intrigue boys, Peters said. The club, which is funded by a grant from AOL and private donations, focuses on books that fire the imaginations of middle school boys. That means fewer plucky female protagonists and more potty humor and monsters.

Picking up the microphone at Hammond, Darren Shan, the 33-year-old author of the Cirque Du Freak books, knew what buttons to push. His upcoming series about demons, Demonata, starts with a bloody climax. "Chapter Two," he told the boys, "is probably the most gruesome thing I've ever heard of."

Listening to the Irish author, who was wearing a black hooded sweat shirt and looked rather boyish himself, the club members were wide-eyed. They interjected occasional one-word comments -- "Yesssss!" when Shan promised that there would be 12 books in the Cirque Du Freak series, and "Daaang!" when he said the last one wouldn't be out in the United States until the end of next year. Some boys had already devoured seven or eight of the pocketbook-size vampire adventure volumes and didn't want to wait.

It's not that boys don't read at all, said Rob Murphy, a burly sixth-grade teacher who is the club's other founder. "They're reading tons of stuff -- comics, video game manuals." But too often, he said, "the boys really hated the books that we were making them read in classrooms. There were a lot of female protagonists, and it was hard for them to make the connection with some of the plotlines."

Boy-friendly literature featured in the club has included the Lemony Snicket "Series of Unfortunate Events" books and copies of Sports Illustrated. "It validates what they feel comfortable reading," said Murphy, who, like other teachers and some club members, wore a T-shirt that read, "Real Men Read." "That was the point of it."

Several of the boys eating Subway sandwiches in the library yesterday said they had learned about the club through word of mouth; some said they had persuaded their friends to join.

"Write that I'm the biggest Darren Shan fan," said Mike Walker, 12, who discovered Cirque Du Freak in the library. "I picked it up and I couldn't stop reading."

Others discovered it only a couple of weeks ago, at the club, but have since immersed themselves in the stories of a regular teenage boy whom circumstances force into becoming a half-vampire.

In a question-and-answer session with Shan, some technical questions about vampires came up, such as what is a vampire-general (it is someone who has command over ordinary vampires but is lower in the hierarchy than a vampire-prince.)

Some students wanted to know whether Shan was in fact the series' main character, who is also named Darren Shan. "Are you really a vampire?" one boy asked. After a weighty pause, Shan said no.

Seventh-grader Brandon White, 12, asked a couple of questions about the books' characters. Then he asked one thing more. "Can I have a hug?" he said. "I love you."

Shan gave him a bear hug, then, in his best tough-guy voice, growled, "Get outta here."

Back at his table, Brandon and his friends discussed the merits of Shan's work.

Most books at school, they said, are for girls. But Cirque Du Freak is so good, said Brandon, that "you, like, kind of read it really fast."

"It's, like, blood and gore and snakes and spiders," Chris Platt, 12, explained, adding, "when I sit down to read I'm only supposed to read for 30 minutes, but I sit down at home [with Cirque Du Freak] and then when I look at the clock it's been two hours."

Sunday, November 06, 2005

Ottawa Citizen Our Town

Hey again,

Just a quick note to say the info about our Rideau and 88 Main Reading Circles were posted in the Our Town Section of the Ottawa Citizen this week. Other events that may be of interest to our members:

1. Nov. 8 Hunt Club/Riverside Community Services Centre is holding a workshop from 10:00-11:30 for residents of the area on Primary Language Literacy. The workshop apparently teaches ways to help your child develop strong first language skills and may be presented in languages other than English. For more info call 247-1600.

2. Nov. 26-27 Ottawa Independent Writers Christmas book Fair takes place at the Assembly Hall at Lansdowne Part - More than 60 Ottawa area authors and publishers will be displaying and selling their books frm 10-6 both days. Cost is free www.oiw.ca or 731-3873 for more info.

Feed the Homeless

This was in my Carleton mailbox:

Feed the Homeless

The Help The Homeless Committee is fundraising to pay for a Christmas dinner for 500 homeless persons. Donations of any amount are welcome. Even a 5$ dollar donation will pay for almost 3 people to eat. Tax receipts available for donations of 25$ or more. Right now we have 95$, but we need to raise $1,000. So every little bit helps...

You can drop off your donation in room 1020 DT on the 10th Floor of Dunton Tower, at the Main Office of the School of Public Policy and Administration.

SPPA Office hours are Monday to Friday 8:30- Noon or 1:00- 4:30PM closed everyday from 12:00-1:00. The main office is located on the 10th floor 1020 DT.

Contact Information: If you are interested in helping out with fundraising, please contact:

Kevin Nolan
Committee Chair

Friday, November 04, 2005

Lots in the news today....

Okay - Interesting new study out (see first article) and then lots of commentary on the Demers' Biography.

DATE: 2005.11.04

Study says parents' bedtime reading to kids doesn't improve literacy

TORONTO (CP) _ Parents take note: Reading to your preschoolers before bedtime doesn't mean they are likely to learn much about letters, or even how to read words.

A new study shows that while storybook time has developmental benefits, preschool children pay very little attention to the printed words on a page, the Globe and Mail reported Friday.

``There are all kinds of parents who are reading to their children believing that it's going to help their children to learn how to read,'' said Mary Ann Evans, a psychology professor at the University of Guelph and co-author of the study.

``That's true to an extent in that reading to your children will help them develop an understanding of story line. But it's not necessarily helping them to learn how to decode the words on the page.''

Reading to children is considered a valued home literacy activity. But Evans said that few studies have looked as its link to children's literacy skills.

To learn how to read, children must pay attention to the letters and recognize words. But her research, published in this month's issues of Psychological Science, the journal of the American Psychological Society, found that preschoolers were focused elsewhere.

Evans, along with Jean Saint-Aubin of the University of Moncton in New Brunswick, conducted two studies of four- and five-year-olds.

The preschoolers wore special headbands with three cameras that tracked eye and head movements.

In the first study, five preschoolers sat on their mothers' laps as the adults read stories on a computer screen. Each child was tested for about an hour with five storybooks.

Three books had rich, colourful illustrations. The other two, which included Carrot Seed by Ruth Krauss, had simple black-and-white illustrations.

The researchers found that children rarely looked at the text. They focused instead on the pictures, no matter how simple they were. In fact, the preschoolers spent, on average, five seconds per book fixated on the text and three minutes on the illustrations. And the more words on a page, the longer they looked at the pictures, the study found.

In a second study, another group of nine children had the same books read to them by their pre-school teacher. They showed the same pattern as the first group, the researchers found.

Although Evans acknowledges that reading to children has its benefits, she cautions parents on expecting too much.

``It's hard to see how they're learning a lot about the appearance of print, and how to read words or learn words by sight ... because they are not looking at the print,'' said Evans, who has been studying parental involvement in children's literacy development.

``Unless parents do something a little bit more explicit, I'm not sure that it has a major impact.''

(The Globe and Mail)


PUBLICATION: The London Free Press
DATE: 2005.11.04
SECTION: Opinion Pages


How sad that former Montreal Canadiens coach Jacques Demers has lived his entire life trying to keep his illiteracy a secret. How tragic for us that he is just one person in a national -- and silent -- epidemic.

World Literacy of Canada statistics indicate 22 per cent of Canadians have serious problems understanding printed materials.

This stunning figure comes with a steep cost to society: Those who can't read and write will fail far more often in the job market. Canadians with the highest literacy levels have a four-per-cent unemployment rate, compared to a rate of 26 per cent for Canadians with the lowest literacy skills.

Our national shame lies in our inability and unwillingness to get help to those who need it -- and to do so in a dignified manner. Perhaps Demers was right to keep his disability a secret. Surely no hockey team would have employed him if the truth came out.

But illiteracy should not be grounds for dismissal. We shame ourselves by perpetuating our silence and indifference.

DATE: 2005.11.04
SECTION: Letter to the Edit

Literacy and smarts

JOHN D. O'LEARY president, Frontier College Toronto Many people seem surprised to learn that someone as accomplished as Jacques Demers cannot read or write (Celebrated NHL Coach Devised Complex Ploys To Hide Illiteracy -- Nov. 3).

Most of the 40 per cent of Canadians with low literacy skills are active, employed people. They are intelligent and capable but, as is the case with Mr. Demers, they suffer immeasurably from embarrassment and anxiety and frequently they cannot fully realize their personal or professional potential due to illiteracy.

But illiteracy is not a matter of intelligence. As Dr. Roby Kidd, one of Canada's leaders in literacy education, once told me when I was a young teacher: "Remember, John. If you don't have an education, you really have to use your brains."
PUBLICATION: Montreal Gazette
DATE: 2005.11.04

Coach Demers creates golden opportunity

The Literacy Foundation in Quebec has been looking for years for someone as famous and articulate as Jacques Demers to come along and say out loud, in public, that he can barely write his own name.

That is exactly what Demers, the former coach of five different NHL teams, did this week. He acknowledged living his whole life with the stress of having to hide a near-total inability to read and write.

"This is going to have a huge impact on people who also suffer from illiteracy and who are isolated," Sophie Labrecque, president and director-general of the Literacy Foundation, told La Presse. "This will demystify the problem of illiteracy and give it a warm, human face, because Mr. Demers is someone who touches people emotionally and many people will recognize themselves in him. For us, it's a gift from heaven."

Both the federal and provincial governments should also treat Demers's admission, which came in his new book Jacques Demers en toutes lettres (Jacques Demers From A to Z), as an opportunity to act. Illiteracy is a crushing burden, borne not only by individuals but also by the whole of society and our economy.

In Quebec, about 612,000 people age 15 to 64 have fewer than nine years of education. This is low enough to put them in a barely literate category, considering they live in an economy that requires an ever rising level of literacy and numeracy.

While a large number of Quebec's illiterates are older people, for whom education past Grade 9 was not always available, there are still too many young people leaving school without the literacy skills needed to get rewarding, or any, work.

The causes are many - dyslexia, hyperactivity, illness, intellectual handicaps, in some cases - but a skilled and sensitive teacher or reading specialist should be able to figure out what is wrong. In Demers's case, the chaos caused by his violent, alcoholic father was at the root of his illiteracy. "I couldn't sleep at night," he said. "I'd go to school and I couldn't learn anything."

On average, the Quebec Education Department allocates $20 million to literacy training in school boards, plus another $10 million to literacy training given by independent community groups. Is this enough? If there are, as literacy specialists fear, thousands of people like Demers, afraid to step forward and admit they have a problem, those sums are not adequate.

The government should seize the opportunity this popular, well-known Quebec figure has handed us on a silver platter, and let people know where they can go to get help. Relieved of his burden, Demers said, "I've been carrying this all my life. I succeeded, and I'm telling people 'You're capable of doing something in your life even if you have some big handicaps.'"

True. But think how much more these people could do if they were literate.

The Literacy Foundation offers an information and reference telephone line, the Info-Alpha Line at (800) 361-9142. Those in need, or those close to them, can also turn to a second option, Adult Learnline: (888) 488-3888.

Thursday, November 03, 2005

In the News Today...

Hi all,

Couple interesting pieces in the news today re: literacy. Also, according to a news piece out in PEI, October 24 is National School Library Day. Who knew!

Illiteracy, childhood abuse haunted Demers' career, biography says
PUBLICATION: The Ottawa Citizen
DATE: 2005.11.03
BYLINE: John Meagher

MONTREAL − Jacques Demers rose from humble beginnings in Montreal and coached more than 1,000 games in the National Hockey League without ever publicly revealing his secret of illiteracy.

In Jacques Demers: Toutes En Lettres, (Jacques Demers: From A to Z) a biography written by Mario Leclerc of Le Journal de Montreal and released yesterday, the 61−year−old former Montreal Canadiens coach divulges that he never learned to adequately read or write, and masked his embarrassing deficiency by getting
others to do his paperwork, such as having former Canadiens trainer Eddy Palchak to fill out his lineup sheets.

Autograph seekers would often push Demers to his limit but he learned to bluff his way through two decades of scouting reports as an NHL coach.

"Everywhere I went ... the trainers or someone would always fill out the lineup without knowing my secret," Demers said yesterday.

"No one ever knew (but) my wife Debbie. In 1984, we were sitting in our kitchen in St. Louis and I asked her to pay some bills. She finally said, 'Look, I'm not your damn secretary.' So I had to tell her and we both kept it a very dark secret.

"Today, though, I'm a relieved man. I finally decided to tell the truth because I'm out of the NHL and nobody could do anything to me anymore. I'm just happy to be telling the truth I've been hiding all these years."

Coaching provided the charismatic Demers, a Grade 8 dropout, with an avenue to overcome his lack of education. It also channeled his anger from a troubled childhood.

"All my adrenaline, my frustration and anger as a coach was against my abusive father," Demers said.

The biography charts Demers's rise through the junior coaching ranks and eventually to the Montreal Forum, where he would guide the Canadiens to their 24th −− and last to date −− Stanley Cup in 1993.

"When I raised the Stanley Cup at the Forum, I did it for my Mom, who died when I was 16," Demers said.

"She was my hero and would have been very proud of me."

Demers began coaching professionally in the defunct World Hockey Association, and was behind the the bench of the Quebec Nordiques when they joined the NHL in 1979. He became the 22nd head coach in Canadiens history in 1992.

It was a dream job for Demers, who grew up in Montreal. He had it tough and took menial jobs to help pay the family bills after his parents died a few years apart in the 1960s, leaving him to care for his three younger siblings.

Demers had lived in fear of his father, Emile Demers, an alcoholic.

"He beat me up and he physically and mentally abused my mother," said Demers, who is donating 60 cents from each book sold to a Montreal shelter for battered women .

"My young life was so negative, I developed a positive side to hide everything from people. By not telling people what my dad was doing to my mom and me, I developed a positive side to hide the ugly truth.

"It was my way of surviving, but I developed anxiety," said Demers, who eventually sought professional help to deal with his personal torment.

"Going to a doctor two years ago helped me understand that when your father says, 'You're a no good SOB,' you don't go to sleep at night and you can't function or learn at school."

Demers ended his NHL coaching career with Tampa Bay in 1999. His all−time record was 409 wins, 467 losses and 130 ties. His career playoff record was 55−43.

Demers, a two−time winner of the Jack Adams Award as coach of the year, now works as a hockey commentator for RDS, the French−language arm of TSN.

He hopes his book will help others to help themselves.

"I didn't do it for anyone else but myself," Demers said. "But I hope it helps others who have similar problems to talk about it with someone.

"Don't hide it."

Tests waste time
PUBLICATION: The Toronto Star
DATE: 2005.11.03

Ontario literacy strategy hinges on local efforts
Letter, Oct. 29.

The Liberal government is creating an environment that is allowing good things to happen in our schools once again.

For the first time in many years, time and money are being provided so that teachers and principals can talk about how to improve instruction for students. Teachers are able to use data from classroom assessments to really make a difference in their teaching practices so as to enhance the possibility of success for every student.

However, teachers continue to have concerns about the Education Quality and Acountability Office's (EQAO) province−wide testing. First, we believe these tests have a limited value for improving teaching or for communicating with parents.

We are also concerned about the government's target of 75 per cent of 12−year−olds reaching level 3 or 4 on the EQAO tests. This is an artificial target that the Liberals put forward in the 2003 election campaign. It creates an unhelpful focus on the test scores of Grade 3 and Grade 6 students, rather than on improving education for all.

In order to raise scores significantly, some teachers are being pressured to "teach to the test" by spending significant instructional time focusing on the types of questions that appear on the EQAO assessments. An overemphasis on test preparation decreases the time available for students to participate in other subject areas
such as the arts, physical education, social studies, science and technology and media literacy.

The motivation for province−wide testing is more political than educational. The resources spent could be better used to provide instructional support and learning resources for our students. The best way for parents to find out what is going on in our schools is to visit them and spend time talking with the teachers and school

Emily Noble, President, Elementary Teachers' Federation of Ontario, Toronto

Update from SFL UQAM

Hi guys,

Attached is an update from the Students for Literacy Group at the University of Quebec in Montreal...most inspiring (these guys are busy!)


Hi Everyone!

Following this summer's much appreciated conference in Toronto, Frontier College - UQAM decided to publish a monthly newsletter to create a Frontier College community across the campuses and a forum where events and ideas can be shared.

It seemed like the perfect way to build on the energy and motivation created at the conference. In Toronto, we met and learned from our a diverse group of people all working towards a common goal.

Below, you'll find attached to this email the first edition of the newsletter. We hope that you will enjoy reading it and will share it with your colleagues.

We hope to hear from you soon!

UQAM SFL Newsletter

November First Edition 2005 by Noëmi Ral, President and editor, design by Nicolas Tremblay

First of all: hello to the whole Frontier College family

Following our annual conference, held in Toronto, we decided that it was time to establish a link between the Canadian Frontier College campuses. We wanted this for two main reasons.

Firstly, to avoid reinventing the wheel every time we encounter a problem or when we are looking for ideas for fund raising or community awareness. Secondly, we hope that through this newsletter, we can help motivate other campuses and volunteers by keeping them abreast of are activities, so we can all feel like part of the team.

In the news…

As you already know, the 8th of September is International literacy day. On that day, with volunteers from Concordia and l’Université de Montréal, we distributed 1200 brochures to raise awareness concerning the alarmingly high illiteracy rate in Quebec.

Sadly, our other plans (an outdoors scrabble tent, sidewalk graffiti and games) were literally washes away by the rain. On the same day, we represented Frontier College at the RGPAQ symposium on “The impact of neo-liberal politics on education, adult education and literacy” held and the Grande Bibliothèque.

As always, we’ve been working hard on recruitment. The total number of volunteers is slightly down, but still good: 35 new recruits have joined us, 12 in tutoring roles, 10 in reading circles, 4 with homework helpers and 9 with the organizing committee. We also have 3 interns, from communications, human resources and our dear Nicolas, our treasurer from finance. Like every year, despite a couple of exceptions, we haven’t been able to attract any male recruits, so please any (decents!) ideas are welcome to attract the rarest of the rare, the male literacy volunteer.

Also, the Awareness Committee will benefit from the help and inspiration of a former student of Frontier College, Linda Brunet, who will be our official spokesperson. We are very happy to have her with us.

Lastly, our regional coordinator, Diego Gallego, represented us during the public consultations held by Claudette Bradshaw, the Minister of State. Were she met various literacy groups in order to prepare (at last!!!) her national strategy on Literacy.

New initiatives:

We will be represented as an accredited group on the Student Life committee (Frontier College – UQAM also benefits from grants from UQAM) by Stéphanie2, to help promote our interests and our visibility at the university.

The Awareness committee was interviewed by CIBL radio on the 11th of October on the subject of adult literacy in Canada. As we have 25 new students/learners pairs, we were invited to voice our opinion on the status of literacy in Canada and to inform their listeners about our work.

This was also our new Spokesperson’s baptism by fire, she came through with flying colors.

We are working on an eventual collaboration with Art students, which we hope will bring original works of art, canvases, pictures, sculptures etc… with literacy themes that will increase our visibility and help out our young artistes at the same time.

We’ve updated our internet site, adding downloadable exercises for tutors and learners.


We also looked for and found professors with expertise in the literacy field to act as mentors, to help us promote and recruit. They will also present a workshop on Family literacy day in January.

In the spirit of « Montreal, World Book Capital 2005 », we will hold a literacy tent in Complexe Desjardins during the Montreal “All-Nighter”

Lastly, we published an article in the Political Science and Law Students paper and were interviewed by the UQAM radio station, Choq FM, all will the goal of raising awareness about the literacy situation in Canada.

We hope to hear from you soon! Please share you successes, failures (to help us avoid our own) and recommendations! Keep up the good work!

Tuesday, November 01, 2005

Canadians are a giving bunch!

Hi everyone,

Thought this was interesting!! Nice to know we care :)

Canadians a giving lot
Tuesday, November 1, 2005 Globe and Mail

Ottawa — Canadians continued to be generous to charities last year with donations the highest ever reported.

Statistics Canada says people who filed tax returns gave $6.9-billion to charities, up 6.3 per cent from 2003.

And the number of people giving also rose – to 5.8 million, a 3.5-per-cent increase from a year earlier.

The agency says donations increased in all provinces and territories.

For tax filers reporting charitable gifts, the median donation was $230, up from $220 in 2003.

That means that half the donors gave more than $230 and half gave less.

Among metropolitan areas, Abbotsford, B.C., reported the highest median donation at $540. Toronto was next with a median of $320, slightly ahead of Saskatoon at $310.

Across the country, about 25 per cent of people who filed tax returns claimed charitable donations. Leading the way again was Manitoba where almost 29 per cent of filers declared a donation. That was followed by Ontario at 28 per cent.