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On February 28, 2022, the Ontario Human Rights Commission (OHRC) released the findings of the Right to Read inquiry and their recommendations for improving literacy instruction in Ontario (click here to access the OHRC Right to Read Executive Summary and Key Recommendations).

The OHRC’s Right to Read report has highlighted flaws in reading instruction in Ontario schools and brought to light the need for educators in Ontario to adopt evidence-based classroom instruction methodologies and programs to teach students to read.  Although the report focuses on word-level reading and associated early reading skills, the recommendations are far-reaching and have implications for supporting students at all levels of education.

LD@school asked a variety of educators to reflect on what the Right To Read Report means for their classroom and instructional practice.

The following response was written by Jocelyn Auger is a Principal with the Bruce-Grey Catholic District School Board.  

“Do the best you can until you know better. Then when you know better, do better.’ —Maya Angelou

As educational pedagogy continues to change with inquiry, research, and practical application, the quote above has never been more fitting for educators. ”Know better, do better” has been central to our approach at Bruce-Grey Catholic District School Board (BGCDSB) in our learning about the Science of Reading, in advance of the release of The Right to Read inquiry report (Feb. 2022).
Over the past several years - and most specifically this year, in reaction to our vocational calling to meet the urgent learning needs of all our students - educators throughout the BGCDSB have been proactively learning about the evidence-based Science of Reading, so that we can more effectively support all learners with foundational reading skills, and access to literacy, their basic human rights.

The Problem

We know about the impact of the pandemic on early literacy development, but these issues, in some form, have existed within our board for a very long time.

For example, data from June of 2021 showed that 22% of grade 1s and 50% of grade 2s at St. Peter and St. Paul's in Durham, ON were reading ‘below grade level’. Following the summer break, 100% of grade 3s were reading below grade level. This data, while shocking, is not unexpected. With interruption to instruction during two formative years of language development, these numbers are not unanticipated.

Utilizing the Ontario Literacy Curriculum and the Guide to Effective Instruction as foundational supports for early literacy development, we too relied on the three-cueing system as a primary teaching pedagogy for early literacy development. However, we knew something was missing.

Learning about the Science of Reading

Relying on the immense vision and innovation of the educational and curriculum leads within our board, we dug into the Science of Reading. We consulted a number of resources, including the Essential Practices for Literacy, the Simple View of Reading, Scarborough's Reading Rope, and BGCDSB's own Reading Continuum and Phonological Screener. Using these tools, we were able to see where we were doing a few things well and where the gaps were in our instructional approach that resulted in students missing critical foundational pieces in their literacy skills.

Moving from a balanced literacy approach to an evidence-based literacy program, wasn’t an easy shift. Many of our teachers felt caught off guard. Some even felt guilty that they’d actually been a ‘hindrance’ to students in their learning to read journey.  

Steps the Board has taken:

Our board has taken a proactive approach to recommendations in the Right to Read. In fact, many of these recommendations have become common practice throughout the board.

Prior to the release of the Right to Read inquiry, our board began offering professional development opportunities, such as:

  • Heggerty and Kilpatrick resources and professional development for our primary teams (K-3+) (click here to access the Heggerty website).
  • Explicit professional development in the Science of Reading through Literacy Consultants (English and French) and Instructional Coaches, and
  • Foundational learning and support with the Special Education Resource Teachers (SERTs) and Speech and Language Pathologists (SLPs) regarding learning disabilities and early reading interventions.

The board has also implemented instructional changes at all tiers of intervention.

Tier 1:

  • Created a board-wide tool for assessment/data collection via the Technology Consultant (TELC). Data was collected by all teachers K-8 in November, February and June.

Tier 2:

  • Utilized the Corrective Reading program to support our students who are struggling to read and require additional support. (Gr. 3+)
  • Purchased Lexia licenses as a board-wide, blended learning approach for all grade 2 and 3 students this year to support both in the classroom and at home (click here to view the Lexia website). 

Tier 3:

  • Utilized the Strong Start volunteer programs to support our early reading intervention (FDK focus) (click here to view the Strong Start website).
  • Piloted the Empower program, seeing the impact of this intensive program in other locations (click here to view the Empower website); and,
  • Beginning on May 2nd, 2022, each elementary school in our board welcomed Literacy Tutors to our schools, who will focus explicitly on teaching the 100 Days program to our struggling/foundational readers (K-2 focus).

These programs are in place to ensure that all students have access to the support they need to attain functional literacy. Literacy is currency in our world; the Right to Read inquiry through the Ontario Human Rights Commission ensures that each student has the exact support they need to be successful.

Next steps for our school based on the Right to Read may include:

  • Exploring of the Science of Reading through our Primary Professional Learning Network (PLN). By moving to a school-wide PLN, teachers who teach different levels from year-to-year would have access to the same learning
  • Professional development regarding the BGCDSB phonological screener and associated skills
  • Professional collaboration on interventions for individual students
  • Having an open dialogue with parents and guardians regarding individual students’ strengths and needs


The Right to Read inquiry, and subsequent recommendations, have provided a critical shift in thinking about teaching pedagogy. In hindsight, our programming of years past was not enough to reach the unique learning needs of all students. Inevitably, some did not gain the foundational skills they needed; many struggled throughout the Primary Division, which had a lasting impact on their learning throughout their educational journey.  

Relying on the evidence-based science of reading to support our own learning has been transformative in our building. The evidence-based literacy approach means that all of my students will be assessed, and supported in a methodical and comprehensive way, regardless of background, entry-level, previously attended school etc. It has also allowed our teaching staff to support and see meaningful development of foundational literacy skills. By not rushing to get students on ‘text’ as quickly as possible, we can ensure that those early phonological skills, phonemic awareness, and phonetic skills are fully engrained. Only then do we move forward. Consolidation has been the key to success. Students are excited to learn. They don’t feel left behind or that their classmates are way ahead of them. It is our hope that by fully developing each of the foundational skills that there will be less “primary regression” this summer, and a strong foundation for each and every student, moving forward.

This will be ongoing learning for us for many years to come, as we continue to hone and refine teaching approaches and pedagogy. A shift in thinking about our role as educators was essential; reading is a currency that opens the doors to the future for our students. When we know better, we can do better, and that’s what we’re trying to do.

Jocelyn Auger

Principal, Bruce-Grey Catholic District School Board