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She's going back to school but can she read?

Five million students will return to Canadian schools this month. If nothing changes at least a million will fail to graduate high school.

The fact that children who do not read well by the end of Grade 3 are at risk of dropping out or failing to graduate is one of the grim conclusions made in a report released by the Canadian Education Statistics Council.

The report, "Literature Review: Key factors to support literacy success in school-aged population" was prepared by principal investigator Julia O'Sullivan, Dean of the Faculty of Education at The University of Western Ontario. It explores the gaps in students' opportunities to learn to read and identifies those at risk based on how well Canadian children can read in Grade 3 or Grade 6. Statistics prove that at least 30 per cent of students across the country cannot read or write well enough to support success in school by the end of Grade 6.

"These students move to junior or senior high where reading is not taught and these same students are expected to read well enough to learn from textbooks in subjects ranging from science to history," says O'Sullivan. "Then they have to write about what they know and think. But without those reading skills, success is highly unlikely."

And while many students are doing well in Canada's current education system, the report says it's unacceptable that nearly one quarter will not graduate from high school. The costs for these students, their families, communities and Canada are much higher today than 25 years ago. Today, Canada competes against countries with higher graduation rates whose students often speak two or three languages.

Efforts to improve reading and writing skills, historically, happen at the primary and elementary levels. But the report urges that those efforts must be intensified for young children and expanded to junior and senior high school if more students are to succeed. And that means more literacy teachers in high school settings.

O'Sullivan explains, "Reading, or the ability to get meaning from print, is fundamental for school success for all students. It is the golden ticket that every child in this country has a right to expect. The challenge for Canada is to raise the bar and close the gap for all of our students. Every single child is entitled to learn to read, to attain that golden ticket."

To read the full report, please visit

Jeff Renaud | EurekAlert!
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