A Campbell River school was the first in the province to use a specialized early literacy training program aimed at levelling the academic playing field for disadvantaged children.
With help from a Telus Friendly Future Foundation grant, Ripple Rock Elementary partnered up with Innovations for Learning last fall to make learning to read a little easier for its youngest students.
The program sees local education assistants use IFL’s proprietary TutorMate software to provide face-to-face, one-on-one tutoring in phonics, sight word acquisition, fluency, and comprehension.
According to IFL’s Canadian executive director, Fabrice Grover, this method gives students in need more individualized instruction than the classroom teacher is able to provide.
“Every year 100,000 kids in Canada complete Grade 3 not reading at grade level,” Grover said. “And that’s a problem because kids who don’t read at grade level by the end of third grade are four times less likely to graduate high school, and by the time they’re 12, there’s a five-year gap between those kids. and the kids who entered school with higher levels of literacy.
“The gap is small through kindergarten and first grade, so our IFL is focused on helping five and six-year-olds when they’re first starting out in school get to grade level by the end of first grade.
“There’s a 90 per cent correlation between first grade reading and third grade reading,’ Grover said. “So if you can get one of these at risk kids reading at grade level by the end of first grade, statistically they’re 250 per cent more likely to graduate.”
IFL hires and trains tutors from within the community of the school or organization it’s working it to serve as early literacy interventionists.
At Ripple Rock, there’s currently one tutor working with 20 students in kindergarten and Grade 1. He holds a conference with the kids in the classroom for two hours each day, with conferences lasting about five minutes each.
Grover said these trained tutors can be almost as effective as a teacher because they’re laser focused on one activity.
“They don’t need to have classroom teaching experience or classroom management experience, they’re just helping kids decode words using a customer software application we’ve developed,” he said.
“We scaffold these folks with the software, so they can help the children master the reading foundation and learn how to decode words. and how to develop the reading foundation they need in order to become fluent readers by the end of that first grade.”
Andrea Ritchie, principal of Ripple Rock Elementary said the school has been happy to partner with Innovations for Learning to help in give students literacy support.
“Improving literacy is one of the goals of the district’s strategic plan and it can be difficult for teachers to provide one-on-one supports for those students who may need some extra help,” she said.
“While it is too early to comment on specific outcomes, our students at Ripple Rock are very engaged with the program and we anticipate that we will see an overall improvement in their grade-level reading proficiency.”
Since Ripple Rock started up with IFL, School District 60: Peace River North has also signed up, as has Tla-o-qui-aht First Nation on Vancouver Island’s West Coast.