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 Samantha Taylor is a Primary and Junior teacher in her third year of teaching with the Algonquin and Lakeshore Catholic District School Board.
As a teacher at the beginning of my career, I am extremely excited about the way that the lives of my students could be impacted by the Right to Read inquiry report and the implementation of The Science of Reading in all elementary classrooms in Ontario. Strong literacy skills are the foundation for everything in life, whether that is academic or life skills. Students must be able to read a math question to answer it properly or they must be able to read a menu at a restaurant to order something. If we commit to implementing scientifically-based literacy programs in all schools in Ontario, we will positively change the lives of the children in our classrooms.
During my first two years of teaching, I taught Grades 7 and 8. I knew that there were a few students in my class who would have benefited from explicit reading instruction. I often felt that I was not doing enough to help them, and, I did not have the knowledge or tools to know how to best do this. As I reflect on that experience with the knowledge that I have now, I wish that I could go back and use the tools that are currently in my teaching toolbox.
This year, I teach Grades 3, 4, and 5. I have worked alongside an extremely knowledgeable school team who have trained me to implement Words Their Way, One Minute Interventions by Dr. Kilpatrick, Lexia, decodable books, and the Vowel Valley. By utilizing the Phonological Awareness Screening Tool (PAST) for the One Minute Interventions and the spelling inventory for Words Their Way, my school team and I were able to create differentiated groups for literacy interventions. These small groups allow me to target the individual needs of students’ reading skills, phonemic awareness, phonics and decoding, fluency, and comprehension. It is also important to note that the Right to Read recommendation to adopt explicit, systematic, and direct instruction would benefit all students, not only early primary classrooms. It is important that all students in Grades 1-8 are properly assessed and have their individual needs met with evidence-based approaches. There could be gaps in their learning due to several factors, such as Covid-19 or the previous reading strategies taught – cueing and guessing.
Even though I am extremely grateful to have had informal training and learning experiences in this area, I feel that I have so much more to learn. I believe it is crucial that students who are pursuing their Bachelor of Education be trained in The Science of Reading. It would also be very helpful for teachers to be trained in how to implement The Science of Reading at different grade levels and how to complete the PAST assessment themselves. All teachers, no matter what stage of their career they are at, should feel confident teaching students through research and evidence-based practices.
In conclusion, I do not think anything could replace the increase in confidence that I can see and hear in my students in their own abilities. At the beginning of the school year, I heard a lot of negative self-talk and self-doubt when it came to reading and spelling. My school team and I have seen great improvements through ongoing formal assessments and in daily activities in my classroom. I look forward to seeing the incredible impact that the Right to Read could have on our schools in Ontario throughout my career.
Primary and Junior teacher, Algonquin and Lakeshore Catholic District School Board.