|Backgrounder(s) & FactSheet(s):||Backgrounder|
VANCOUVER – The Province today launched the $27-million first phase of ReadNow BC, an action plan to help British Columbians improve their reading skills, Premier Gordon Campbell announced at a literacy summit to mark Family Literacy Week.
“Reading is the key to opportunity for every child, family and community in B.C.,” Campbell said at the opening of the Summit on Learners and Literacy. “Unfortunately, too many British Columbians lack the reading skills needed to succeed. ReadNow BC will provide programs and services to help them acquire those skills and help them achieve their dreams.”
Last year, nearly 9,000 children – or about one in four – started school without the necessary developmental skills. Recent studies show that more than one million adult British Columbians do not have the skills necessary to read a newspaper or to fill out a job application.
ReadNow BC focuses on four key objectives: increasing the number of children who enter school with the pre-reading skills they need to succeed, and improving reading skills among school-age children, Aboriginal people and adults, including workplace literacy.
The funding announced today for ReadNow BC is for the first phase of the provincial literacy strategy and includes $12 million to be administered by the B.C. School Trustees Association to enhance children’s early learning, including pre-literacy skills. The funds will be used to support grants for learning resources like library materials for parents and caregivers, culturally or linguistically appropriate learning materials for early learning programs with emphasis on Aboriginal cultural content, training for staff for early years programs, and other pre-literacy initiatives.
The Province is also investing a total of $5 million in the StrongStart early learning centre program for preschoolers and their parents or caregivers. The Province announced $1.4 million for the first 16 centres last month. Now an additional $3.6 million will see nine more centres opened by the end of this school year and additional centres opened throughout B.C. by July 2008.
“Reading is important because of the joy it provides, whether it is from reading a book or being able to follow an instruction manual,” said Education Minister Shirley Bond. “But reading is also important because British Columbians who have good reading skills have higher levels of employment and earn more.”
This first phase of ReadNow BC will also include:
· $5 million to help Literacy Now address community literacy needs around B.C.
· $1 million to expand community-based adult literacy programs for learners at the lowest literacy levels, with increased focus on families and Aboriginal people.
· $3.5 million for Ready, Set, Learn, a program that helps three-year-olds get ready for kindergarten.
· More than $500,000 to provide:
o A series of ReadNow BC DVDs and booklets to help parents work with their children to improve reading skills.
o A ReadNow BC website to be launched later this year to provide one-stop information about reading programs and services in communities throughout the province.
o A toll-free reading hotline activated today that provides British Columbians with details on how to access ReadNow BC programs and other literacy services. The number is 1-888-Read234 and service is provided in a variety of languages.
o A web-based resource for B.C. educators to share effective teaching practices and for parents to learn better ways to teach their children at home.
“By putting programs in communities all around B.C. to support people where they live and work, we’re making sure everyone has a chance to learn fundamental literacy skills,” said Advanced Education Minister Murray Coell. “Literacy is the first step for many British Columbians as they work to build fulfilling, productive lives in our knowledge-based economy.”
ReadNow BC supports three of the five cornerstones of government’s Pacific Leadership Agenda, which lays out how British Columbia will achieve government’s Five Great Goals. ReadNow BC will help:
· Work to close gaps in Aboriginal education;
· Create vibrant, connected communities that are socially responsive; and
· Improve B.C.’s competitiveness and productivity through education.
The Summit on Learners and Literacy fulfils a commitment made by the Premier following a literacy summit in the fall of 2004. This second summit brings together learners, community literacy organizations, businesses, researchers, educators and others to discuss the experience of learners and ways to better engage communities in literacy. The agenda focuses on workplace and Aboriginal literacy.
Office of the Premier
Public Affairs Bureau
Ministry of Education
250 920-9040 (cell)
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