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Julie Smith is the executive director of Elementary Literacy. Image: Submitted/Elementary Literacy

Literacy Group Responds To Advocate’s Report

By Brad Perry Nov 23, 2022 | 6:44 AM

A non-profit organization urges caution with recent numbers showing a drop in childhood literacy rates.

Child and Youth Advocate Kelly Lamrock highlighted youth literacy rates in his most recent report released last Wednesday.

Lamrock said 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, he 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.

Julie Smith, the executive director of Elementary Literacy, said New Brunswickers need to have a “grain of caution” with the numbers presented in Lamrock’s report.

“The last three years in that report are actually not Grade 2, they’re Grade 4, and they were during the pandemic, and last year that Grade 4 test was delivered online for the first time,” Smith said in an interview.

“While I think the big picture is accurate, that literacy remains an issue in the province and something we need to put a focus on, the numbers are a little bit apples and oranges.”

Smith noted that the Grade 2 assessment was pulled a few years ago due to flaws in the methodology. Staff are in the process of developing a new one that will “more accurately reflect the success of kids,” she said.

While she does not doubt the need for continued emphasis on literacy in New Brunswick, Smith said there is no clear sense that there has been a decline in literacy rates.

In his report, the child and youth advocate said the government needs to place a renewed focus on early literacy and address classroom composition issues.

Smith said that work is already underway, adding the province started implementing a new curriculum in 2020.

“For Grade 4 numbers, those changes wouldn’t show up yet. Hopefully, in the next year or two, we will see a return to an increase,” she said.


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