Welcome To
Acadia Broadcasting NewsThe Latest and Greatest ContentYour Trusted Local Source


Kelly Lamrock is New Brunswick's child, youth and seniors' advocate. Image: Submitted

Advocate Concerned By Dropping Child Literacy Rates

By Brad Perry Nov 17, 2022 | 11:45 AM

New Brunswick’s child and youth advocate wants urgent action to improve childhood literacy rates.

That was one of three challenges identified in a new report from Kelly Lamrock released on Wednesday.

“We see numbers where we’ve rolled back all of the progress of the early 2000s,” Lamrock said in a phone interview.

The number of Grade 2 students who were meeting reading standards increased from just 59 per cent in 2003-04 to nearly 84 per cent in 2009-10.

However, Lamrock said early childhood literacy rates have dropped since then, returning to 59 per cent in 2021-22.

“If we had a one per cent increase in the HST, we’d probably have four months of political debate. Yet one-quarter of kids who once read no longer are, we are now producing another 2,000 illiterate graduates a year, and no one is talking about it,” said Lamrock.

When literacy numbers were this low in 2003, Lamrock said it prompted “multipartisan concern” and a focus on raising student literacy concerns.

The advocate said the government needs to place a renewed focus on early literacy and address classroom composition issues.

“Teachers are being asked to manage classrooms that are profoundly underresourced for the demands on them. Children who don’t have English as a first language, children with diagnosed learning disabilities, children with beahavioural issues,” said Lamrock.

“We’ve got to put the focus back on that ability of the child to move from learning to read to reading to learn before children start to tune out in school.”

The report also sounded the alarm over a surge in the need for mental health services for young people.

Lamrock said his office has raised the issue over the past few years, yet the numbers were “more striking” than he thought.

“We’ve seen a tripling in just a couple of years of the number of young people of adolescence with diagnosed mental health issues,” he said.

The number of people who reported receiving a diagnosis for a mental health disability jumped from 6.1 per cent in 2018-19 to 18 per cent in 2021-22.

Over that same time period, there were also increases in the number of children admitted to the hospital with an anxiety disorder or an eating disorder.

The challenge, said Lamrock, is not only to have a provincewide primary care system for mental health but also to look at some of the root causes.

“Are there things that are providing constant stress and anxiety in young people? Is there too much time alone and online?,” he said.

The advocate’s office plans to partner with municipalities to create child-friendly communities with social and recreational spaces that allow children to interact beyond online activities.

Lamrock said there also needs to be a credible plan in place to train scarce health professionals, such as psychologists.


Leave a Reply