Friday, September 28, 2007

Young students need teacher-librarians every day

Surrey Now and Surrey Leader Letter: 2007 September 28

The annual Raise-A-Reader day is almost upon us. It's a wonderful idea that everyone embraces because defeating illiteracy is critical for many of the province's at-risk children.

But while politicians at various levels will be giving lip-service and posing for photo-ops to show their support of programs that promote literacy, take a look at the place where the greatest battles against literacy are fought: your local school library. The staffing of school libraries is based on school enrolment, so as demographics shift, so does the front line of defence against illiteracy. And because of shifts in populations, while everyone is cheering Raise-A-Reader Day, the doors of many school libraries are closed to students.

My children attend a school that has a library with locked doors. Sure, many people will argue it's only one day a week that the library is closed. But that one day a week is a big deal when combatting illiteracy. Without a teacher-librarian there for the students, many children who are already at risk of being under-educated are locked away from that one book that might just turn them into an avid reader, and perhaps one day a university graduate. Teacher-librarians are not just teachers, they lead children - especially children who need that extra assistance - into the world of reading and literacy. They know their books and they get to know every child who walks through the library doors; the teacher-librarians are able to give the students who need a helping hand that little push into the world of books, reading and literacy.

I for one would like to see our politicians making concrete strides toward literacy by providing a teacher-librarian in every school library, every day, regardless of the school enrolment. Because when it comes right down to it, locked library doors do not promote literacy.

C. Cooke, Surrey

Thursday, September 27, 2007


For Immediate Release
Sept. 27, 2007

KELOWNA – For the first time, the Province will match all donations raised by CanWest’s Raise-a-Reader Day in Kelowna, Oct. 3, 2007, MLAs Al Horning and Sindi Hawkins announced today.

“Literacy is one of the best foundations for a successful and enriched life,” said Hawkins, MLA for Kelowna-Mission. “I am so happy to see the expansion of this project to our Kelowna residents and the benefits it brings. Success comes from learning to read.”

The funds raised in Kelowna will be going to Project Literacy, a non-profit organization offering one-to-one tutoring to adults who face literacy challenges.

“Kelowna is one of the fastest growing communities in B.C. and to develop productively, we need all the necessary tools,” said Horning, MLA for Kelowna-Lake Country. “The tutoring offered by Project Literacy will help families and children reach their potential.”

“Since this is our first year participating in Raise-a-Reader, we are delighted to see the provincial government’s pledge to match the vital funds raised here in Kelowna to support literacy projects,” said Okanagan Valley Newspaper Group president and CEO Alison Yesilcimen. “Children in the Okanagan will benefit significantly from this initiative and the Province’s generous support.”

Since its inception in Vancouver in 1997, the Raise-a-Reader campaign and its sponsors have made significant contributions to help improve literacy for children and families across the province. The matching funding this year will help to support more than 180 beneficiary organizations and help British Columbia continue to lead the country in Raise-a-Reader fundraising.
The B.C. government has been matching funds raised through the campaign since 2004, and to date has contributed over $1 million to the Vancouver Sun and Victoria Times Colonist campaigns.

“More than one million adult British Columbians do not have the skills needed to read a newspaper or to fill out a job application,” said Education Minister Shirley Bond. “Raise-a- Reader has raised over $3.4 million, and we’re proud to extend our support this year to the Kelowna campaign.”

ReadNow BC is the Province’s comprehensive literacy action plan to help provide adults, Aboriginal people, K-12 students and preschoolers with the skills they need to succeed. ReadNow BC, introduced in January of this year, has received nearly $44.5 million in provincial funding, including the launch of the ReadNow BC website at

Since 2001, the Province has announced over $125 million in new literacy programs and services in support of its goal of making British Columbia the best-educated, most literate jurisdiction in North America.

Lara Perzoff
Public Affairs Bureau
Ministry of Education
250 356-5963
250 920-9040 (cell)


For Immediate Release
Sept. 27, 2007

VICTORIA – B.C. will help organize the first-ever Canada-wide literacy forum to use leading technology, Education Minister Shirley Bond announced today.

“About nine million adult Canadians are at the lowest literacy levels, including more than five million who lack the skills necessary to read a newspaper or fill out a job application,” said Bond. “This forum is an unprecedented opportunity for education partners from across Canada and experts from around the world to work together to open doors for all Canadians and help them realize their personal and professional potential.”

A pan-Canadian literacy forum will take place April 14‑15, 2008, and take advantage of webcasting, which uses Internet technologies to broadcast streaming video in real time to multiple locations. Five sites around the country will host keynote speakers, while several additional sites can tune in, contribute questions, and supplement with local sessions. All host sites will have an individual theme, such as family literacy, community literacy, adult literacy, school-age literacy, English-as-a-second-language or workplace literacy.

The pan-Canadian literacy forum was announced at the conclusion of the semi-annual meeting of the Council of Ministers of Education, Canada (CMEC), held in Victoria this week and chaired by Bond.

The forum is part of a new literacy action plan from CMEC, which aims to raise awareness about the importance of literacy and boost literacy levels from coast to coast to coast. The plan focuses on three strategies:

  • sharing literacy policies among the provincial and territorial governments;
  • creating networks of organizations and individuals to gather and share teaching resources for learners of all ages; and
  • encouraging additional literacy research, statistic sharing, and the effective use of data.

“Helping people improve their literacy skills allows them to make the most of their abilities in their careers, as parents, and as members of our society,” said Advanced Education Minister Murray Coell, who is responsible for adult literacy. “Working together to build literacy levels is one of the most important things we can do for our individual jurisdictions, and for Canada as a whole.”

“The education ministers from across Canada are leaders in literacy, united in our commitment to learning and reading,” said Kelly Lamrock, Minister of Education for New Brunswick and incoming chair of CMEC. “That’s why we’ve worked together to develop the CMEC literacy action plan, giving children, families and communities across Canada the key to opportunity and prosperity.”

“All the provinces and territories will benefit if we work together,” said Bond. “B.C. is proud to serve CMEC as the lead province for literacy and to champion the upcoming pan-Canadian literacy forum.”

From the Victoria meeting, CMEC ministers also reaffirmed their commitment to priority action plans involving Aboriginal education and post-secondary capacity, as well as implementing a strategy for post-secondary education and skills training in Canada.

Any national and regional co-operative efforts resulting from the forum and CMEC’s literacy action plan will complement work already underway in individual provinces and territories. B.C., for example, recently launched the second phase of ReadNow BC, the province’s literacy action plan. To date, British Columbia has invested nearly $44.5 million in ReadNow BC, increasing investment in new literacy programs and services since 2001 to a total of over $125 million.

Lara Perzoff
Public Affairs Bureau
Ministry of Education
250 356-5963
250 920-9040 (cell)

The show goes on with B.C. book festival

Despite a civic strike, the pages turn as organizers bring in an American comedic talent to 'mix it up'

Rebecca Wigod
Vancouver Sun
Thursday, September 27, 2007

The Los Angeles playwright and performer Lauren Weedman is one funny woman, and now her comedy lives on the page.

"When I first saw the painting The Scream, I wondered if Edvard Munch had gone to my high school in Indianapolis," she writes in her first book, A Woman Trapped in a Woman's Body, soon to be released by Seattle's Sasquatch Books.

Mind you, that short, bathetic quotation doesn't show Weedman at her self-revealing, self-flagellating best. Elsewhere in the collection of funny personal essays, she writes of attending the 2001 Emmy Awards with her then-colleagues from The Daily Show with Jon Stewart and being acutely uncomfortable because, thanks to the Atkins diet, her guts were "packed full of salami and cheese."

The story gets increasingly down-and-dirty from there. She shares so much intimate detail from her life that comparisons with David Sedaris are being made. You can see why her book is subtitled Tales from a Life of Cringe.

On Sunday, Weedman will be in Vancouver, appearing at The Word on the Street, a free celebration of literacy and the printed word taking place on Georgia, Homer and Hamilton streets for the 13th year.

Organizer Liesl Jauk said, "I thought it would be fun to bring her up [from L.A.] and mix it up a bit."

The Word on the Street is primarily a celebration of B.C. writers, books and magazines. Taking place from 11 a.m. to 6 p.m. on the last Sunday in September, it has shown itself capable of attracting 30,000 people.

With its traditional anchor point, Library Square, behind picket lines this year, it's a wonder that it's going ahead at all. But Jauk, her partner Bryan Pike and the other event organizers in their firm, Rebus Creative, say the show must go on.

Canada Post, across Georgia Street from Library Square, has agreed to allow tents to be put up on its parking lot. Jauk said three of Georgia's lanes will be closed to traffic so festival-goers will be able to get to those venues safely.
As well, the Centre in Vancouver for the Performing Arts, at 777 Homer, is allowing its sidewalk to be used.

"We've managed to save most of the festival," said Jauk. "The only major venue we had to cut completely was the Main Stage, which is really unfortunate, but there's just not enough space.

"We're really pleased that we were able to relocate pretty well everything else."

The B.C. talent on display will include the writers Caroline Adderson (Very Serious Children), Colin Angus (Beyond the Horizon), Carellin Brooks (Wreck Beach), Arthur Black (Black to the Grindstone), Bruce Grierson (U-Turn), Brian Preston (Mi, Chi and Bruce Lee) and Meg Tilly (Porcupine).

Jauk aims for a lively mix. She doesn't think the lineup should be "strictly for the literary-novel reader." Little kids, tree-huggers, poetry buffs, francophones, gardeners -- all these groups, and more, are catered for.

Calvin Sandborn, a Victoria environmental lawyer, will be appearing at 3 p.m. in the Family Stories venue on Hamilton near Georgia. He's the author of a memoir, Becoming the Kind Father, that has been striking a chord with readers. It's about growing up with an abusive alcoholic father and learning to break that cycle.

"This book is for every woman who knows an angry or a distant man, and that's 100 per cent of the population," said Sandborn, a father of three.

When he reads from the book in public, he often sees audience members with tears in their eyes. At one event, a retired air force pilot came up to him and said, 'I realize I was too hard on my son, and now he's being too hard on his son.' "

Sandborn will be followed at 3:15 by memoirist Leilah Nadir, author of The Orange Trees of Baghdad.

At 12:30, Ruth Ozeki will appear in the Authors Tent, on Homer near Georgia, and talk about her novel My Year of Meats, centrepiece of the Vancouver Public Library's One Book, One Vancouver program this year.

Lauren Weedman will follow her at 1:30. It shows every sign of being a provocative and stimulating afternoon.

Wednesday, September 26, 2007

Library of Congress Launches National Book Festival Young Readers' Online Toolkit and Additional Podcasts

Library of Congress launches an interactive resource that shows how to host your own book festival. The new Young Readers' Online Toolkit will help students, educators and parents bring the magic of the National Book Festival to their classrooms, libraries and homes.

Washington, D.C. (
PRWEB) September 26, 2007 -- In addition to planning a range of activities for this year's National Book Festival on the National Mall on September 29, 2007, the Library just launched the National Book Festival Young Readers' Online Toolkit to bring the festival into libraries, schools and homes across the country.

The Toolkit features information about National Book Festival authors who write for children and teens, podcasts of their readings, exclusive Q&A about their inspiration and writing process, teaching tools and activities for kids. This interactive resource also shows educators, parents and children how they can host their own book festivals.

The new Online Toolkit will help students, educators and parents bring the magic of the National Book Festival to their classrooms, libraries and homes to make the National Book Festival a truly national experience. The
Hosting Guide provides an overview of the toolkit and shows how to use its resources to host local reading celebrations. Students can work with their parents, teachers and librarians and follow these easy steps to organize book festivals in their classrooms, libraries and homes.

You can find out more about authors by visiting
2007 National Book Festival Poster in your home, school, local library and community.

Also, check out additional
podcasts with the following participating authors who shared their latest work and discoveries: Terry Pratchett, Maria Celeste Arrarás, Charles Simic, Rosemary Wells, Victoria Rowel, Patricia MacLachlan, Megan McDonald, and Holly Black.

2007 National Book Festival

The free Festival will be held from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. on Saturday, Sept. 29, on the National Mall in Washington, D.C., between 7th and 14th streets (rain or shine). For the full list of participating authors, illustrators and poets, their books, and other activities at this year's National Book Festival, please visit

Web portal links students with Games material

The site also features a section for teachers to share lesson ideas and for schools to post projects

Jeff Rud
CanWest News Service
Wednesday, September 26, 2007

Victoria's Deanna Binder gazed up at the flashy new Olympic web portal displayed on the screen at the front of the room and nodded in approval.
"This is the next generation,'' Binder said Tuesday.

Twenty years ago, Binder was breaking new Olympic ground herself as the supervisor for the youth education program with the 1988 Calgary Games. She spearheaded an effort that resulted in every elementary school in Canada receiving a binder of learning materials that tied together curriculum and the Olympics for kindergarten to Grade 6 students.

But those were pre-Internet days. Tuesday at the Delta Ocean Pointe hotel in Victoria, Binder could only marvel at the unveiling of an "online education portal" for the Vancouver 2010 Olympics.

The website with the address, nicknamed "slash-edu" by organizers, features a bilingual e-magazine that will include monthly cover stories, interviews with athletes, Vancouver 2010 press releases and updates and links to resource sites. Those sites include the Canadian and International Olympic and Paralympic Committees and the Beijing 2008 and London 2012 Games.

The portal features a teachers' section to share lesson ideas and best practices related to the "three pillars" of the Olympic movement -- sport, culture and sustainability. That online forum will be operational in November.

It also includes a section where schools can post projects and Olympics-related events, and one where students can "share their dreams and passion.''

Vanoc executive vice-president Terry Wright said the portal builds on the organizing committee's commitment to "make Vancouver 2010 Canada's Games.''

Canada has been a leader in this area since the 1976 Summer Games in Montreal featured the first education program tied to the Olympic movement. The Calgary Games in 1988 were the first to deliver an education program that supported core curriculum in the host country's schools.

Following next year's Beijing Summer Games, the website will be expanded worldwide.

"A great legacy of our Games would be inspiring children to pursue their dreams, to seek their own podium,'' Wright said.

B.C. Education Minister Shirley Bond said the portal will allow classrooms, schools and teachers from across Canada to connect with each other "to talk about striving for excellence.''

Vanoc director of education programs Don Black said the school section will enable Canadian teachers and students to showcase the positive things they are doing, even if they don't seem obviously tied to the Olympics.

For example, a class or school working to clean up a local creekbed could post a report on that project, he said. And schools are expected to heavily use this area to post their experiences as the Olympic torch relay winds through their communities.

"At the end of the day, slash-edu is really about helping teachers engage their students and inspiring the students to be the best they can be,'' Black said.

Tuesday, September 25, 2007

Education Ministers announce major pan-Canadian forum on literacy

VICTORIA, Sept. 25 /CNW/ - Ministers of education celebrated the 40th anniversary of their intergovernmental organization this week at their semi-annual meeting, in Victoria, British Columbia. To mark this importantmilestone, the Council of Ministers of Education, Canada (CMEC), the national voice for education in Canada, today announced an innovative forum on literacy to be held in spring 2008.

This unique event will be designed to increase awareness among Canadians of the importance of literacy as a lifelong issue, and to encourage collaboration and sharing of information on literacy across Canada, develop education tools that support professional development, and frame discussions on literacy. It will bring together learners, parents, educators, business and labour leaders, policy makers, community partners, and others to lay the foundation for a continuing dialogue through the CMEC literacy networks.

"Ministers recognize the fundamental importance of literacy for individual and social development and success," said British Columbia's education minister, Shirley Bond, who chaired the Victoria meeting. "We are committed, each in our own jurisdictions, and collectively through CMEC, to ensuring that Canada leads the world in literacy and learning."

The forum will be hosted simultaneously in a number of locations across the country and will take advantage of technology to create a virtual meeting space, where all participants will be able to listen to and interact with keynote speakers in real time. A first for Canada and for education ministers, the forum's unique structure and format will ensure that literacy becomes a national conversation.

The initiative is just one component of CMEC's new Literacy Action Plan.Ministers will also be working together to create literacy networks to share the best of literacy practices from all provinces and territories. As well, they will be working through their assessment and research programs to provide useful data on literacy rates among Canadians.

"Canada's education systems are the envy of the world, and CMEC has been a key contributor to our success," said Kelly Lamrock, Minister of Education for New Brunswick and newly elected Chair of CMEC. "Today's ministers of education continue to build on the achievements of their predecessors by providing strong leadership in education through CMEC."

Ministers will continue work on their priority action plans on Aboriginal education and postsecondary capacity. CMEC ministers contributed to and have endorsed "Competing for Tomorrow," a strategy for postsecondary education and skills training in Canada released by premiers in 2006 and discussed today how to pursue major priorities outlined in the paper.

Ministers emphasized federal responsibility for increasing funding for postsecondary education. They also encouraged the federal government to restore stable literacy funding.

The Chair and Vice-Chair of CMEC will seek a meeting with their federal counterparts to discuss these issues as well as how to work more effectively together on such issues as literacy, Aboriginal education, and skills training to the benefit of all Canadians.

At their next meeting in February 2008, ministers will be exploring new ways of better informing Canadians about the status of education and the strategies required for ongoing improvement.

CMEC is an intergovernmental body composed of the ministers responsible for elementary-secondary and advanced education from the provinces and territories.

For further information: Hanca Chang, Tel.: (416) 962-8100, ext. 265,E-mail:, Web site:

Here is the challenge, Around the Web in 80 ways!

I write for a couple times a month. A few weeks ago I wrote about How well do you share your knowledge, your enthusiam, your web 2.o tools?...

How to get kids interested in science

Shar Levine
Special to the Sun
Tuesday, September 25, 2007

Let's start with two facts: The B.C. Ministry of Advanced Education says that enrolment in science and math courses is down. And a recent study concluded that 100 per cent of children loved science in Grade 1, but by Grade 12 that number had dropped to 11 per cent.

So the question is: Why? Why in this age of exciting technological advances and remarkable scientific achievements should kids not want to pursue careers in these fields?

There are three simple reasons that explain the drop in students choosing science education and three simple solutions.

The first reason that students don't love science is that primary school teachers don't love science. Teachers are not equipped with the necessary education and tools. And whose fault is that? Well, education faculties in our various universities that do not require elementary school teachers to take any science courses. How can they teach science if they don't have this basic knowledge?

The Ministry of Education does not require any special training for primary school educators, so the why should a teacher take any additional courses?

Finally, the school boards may not have an expert on staff to train teachers or assist them with science lesson plans. This means that in many schools science is being taught by educators who have no love for or understanding of the subject.

What can be done to motivate and excite kids about science?

First, make universities include courses on how to teach science and require some courses in science before graduation.

Second, help teachers, librarians and schools to implement exciting, hands-on science programs that will motivate kids to pursue careers in science. If you don't have an expert, bring in one to develop these programs.

Third, support science books. Libraries are stacked with fantasy books that tell tales of witches and wizards, but are woefully lacking in trade books on science. Librarians need to nominate hands-on science books for information awards. Not a single such book has won a national information book award in the past 20 years.

The kids who are in Grade 1 today will be employed as adults in jobs that may not have even been invented. Those jobs are in science and technology. We are losing out as a nation because we aren't teaching science to children.

Shar Levine is co-recipient of the 2006 Eve Savory Award for Science Communication from the B.C. Innovation Council.

Monday, September 24, 2007


For Immediate Release
Sept. 24, 2007

VICTORIA – Literacy will be the number one issue on the table for 14 education and post-secondary ministers from across Canada when they meet in Victoria on Tuesday, announced Education Minister Shirley Bond.

“I am pleased to be the chair for this significant national meeting,” said Bond. “Provincial and territorial ministers will be grappling with one of the country’s leading challenges, reaching out to help the 22 per cent of adult Canadians who have difficulty with reading and comprehension.”

The education ministers are in Victoria as part of the Council of Ministers of Education, Canada (CMEC). CMEC is an intergovernmental body composed of the ministers responsible for elementary-secondary and post-secondary education from the provinces and territories and is a venue to share information, resources and strategies on common education-related issues.

“Helping people improve their literacy skills allows them to make the most of their abilities in their careers, as parents, and as members of our society,’ said Advanced Education Minister Murray Coell, who is responsible for adult literacy. “Working together to build literacy levels is one of the most important things we can do for our individual jurisdictions, and for Canada as a whole.”

B.C. is acting as host for the meeting and is the lead province for the CMEC’s Literacy Action Plan. The new literacy action plan focuses on three strategies:

· Building formal policy frameworks on literacy for both school-age and adult learners;
· Creating networks of organizations and individuals to gather and share best practices; and
· Encouraging additional literacy research, statistic sharing, and the effective use of data.

“Over one million British Columbians face reading challenges every day. Many cannot even fill in a simple job application,” said Bond. “By helping them participate fully in society, we are enriching the lives of every citizen in this province.”

Since 2001, the Province has announced over $125 million in new literacy programs and services in support of its goal of making British Columbia the best-educated, most literate jurisdiction in North America. Recently, funding for the ReadNow BC program to support adult literacy was increased from $27 million to nearly $44.5 million.


Media contact:
Lara Perzoff
Public Affairs Bureau
Ministry of Education
250 356-5963
250 920-9040 (cell)

Finalists Announced for $53,500 Canadian Children's Book Centre Awards

For Immediate Release: Toronto (September 18, 2007) ― The Canadian Children’s Book Centre (CCBC) is pleased to announce the finalists for the four major children’s book awards it administers. The winners will be announced at a by invitation-only gala event at Toronto’s Design Exchange on October 15, 2007...

Friday, September 21, 2007

CanWest Raise-a-Reader sets the stage for literacy in Canada

Raise-a-Reader Concert Series to launch as national initiative

WINNIPEG, Sept. 21 /CNW/ - As volunteers from coast-to-coast prepare to hit street corners on CanWest Raise-a-Reader Day, the founders of this national literacy fundraiser are preparing a new stage for the program. Today, CanWest proudly launched the Raise-a-Reader Concert Series with the announcement of international recording star, Michael Bublé as the first Canadian artist to attach his name to Raise-a-Reader's literacy cause.

In a press conference yesterday with CEO and President of CanWest Publishing, Dennis Skulsky, Bublé introduced details on his nationwide tour for 2008 with partial ticket proceeds going to the Raise-a-Reader national fundraising program.

"It'll be great to be back performing on my home turf, and the chance to tie in with Raise-a-Reader is a great way for all of us to help make Canada 'well read'," said Bublé.

David Asper, Executive Vice President of CanWest Global Communications Corp. and Chairman, National Post said, "We've had great success with the annual buzz around Raise-a-Reader Day for the past five years. Now, with exposure and fundraising in 25 cities coast-to-coast, it's the perfect time to take the leap from a one-day event to a year-round series of excitement and entertainment in support of the cause."

The Concert Series will be further elevated by the program's exclusive sponsor Assante Wealth Management. Assante has been a major sponsor of Raise-a-Reader since 2004 and has this year provided additional funding, dedicated to launching this new series.

"We believe strongly in the importance of literacy and the role it plays in helping create wealth and prosperity for Canadian families," says Joe Canavan, Chairman and CEO of Assante Wealth Management.

"The Concert Series isa great opportunity to partner with some of our exceptionally talented Canadian artists, reach greater numbers of Canadians, and raise the profile of literacy across the country."

Another key partner in the series is international concert promoters, Live Nation. "Live Nation Canada is honoured to partner with Michael Bublé and Raise-a-Reader to support local literacy initiatives across the country", said Paul Haagenson, President of Live Nation Canada.

"Launching this national concert series with the generous support of Michael Bublé brings the literacy message to new audiences and in the end will mean enhanced funds for literacy beneficiaries across Canada," added Asper.

CanWest Raise-a-Reader is a national campaign to generate funds for local literacy programs and raise awareness about the importance of encouraging family literacy.

The highly successful Raise-a-Reader Day has raised $7.45 million for literacy beneficiaries across Canada since its inception in 2002. On the morning of Wednesday, October 3(*), Canadians will be greeted by volunteers on street corners and at bus stops across the country, who will "hawk" newspapers in exchange for donations. 100 per cent of the funds raised in the local markets stays in their community to support family literacy programs.
(*) Raise-a-Reader Day takes place on Thursday, September 27 in Montreal.

Raise-a-Reader Day 2007 - cities and supporting newspapers
Vancouver Island
Victoria - Times Colonist
Port Alberni - Alberni Valley Times
Nanaimo - Nanaimo Daily News

BC Mainland
Vancouver - The Vancouver Sun
Kelowna - Kelowna Daily Courier
Penticton - Penticton Herald
Prince George - Prince George Citizen

Thursday, September 20, 2007

Writing on the Wall

Writing on the Wall explores the literacy crisis unfolding in Canada's classrooms. Complete with shocking statistics of children's literacy skills and the impact on their future, and Canada's, this groundbreaking film follows two high-needs elementary schools as they prepare their submission for an Indigo Love of Reading Foundation grant to rebuild their dying libraries...

Schools without books?

Globe and Mail: September 20, 2007

Church Street Junior Elementary is a typical inner-city school in Toronto. It's a lively place, with kids from 30 different countries, lots of single-parent families, hardworking teachers. It used to be typical in another way as well. It had virtually no library books.

Heather Reisman first heard about the school when a city councillor named Kyle Rae gave her a call. The school is in his ward. So is Ms. Reisman's flagship Indigo store, just a few blocks away. He begged her to donate a few boxes of books.

"I must have had a slow day, so I went over," she says. "There weren't more than 50 books in the whole library. They were old and tattered. I picked up a book, and it smelled." She was stunned. This wasn't the Third World. This was Canada in 2001.

Ms. Reisman met the school's principal, Judy Gillis, and told her she could have anything she wanted. Today, the spacious library is crammed with books. The kids love the place. "You think of J. K. Rowling and all those kids who really want to read," says Ms. Gillis.

That visit planted the seed of the Indigo Love of Reading Foundation, a charitable initiative that funds school libraries across Canada. To date it has donated more than $4.5-million to 30 elementary schools.

Schools without books? We've got hundreds of them. When funding cutbacks hit the system, the libraries were the first to go. Everywhere, the focus is on early literacy. But what's the point of teaching reading if there aren't any books to read? "The single biggest factor in kids reading is just seeing books around," says Henry Giroux, professor of English and cultural studies at McMaster University.

In Ontario, former lieutenant-governor James Bartleman attracted enormous public support with his campaign to supply books to kids on native reserves. Few people know that kids in Winnipeg, Vancouver, Halifax and Thunder Bay are just as needy. Most schools depend on private fundraising to buy library books. So schools in poorer neighbourhoods lose out. "We have a two-tier system in public education," says Ms. Reisman. "It's the most disadvantaged who are most affected. You simply can't bake-sale your way out of this.

"Yesterday, to raise awareness, she launched a PR campaign that features a short, powerful documentary about the foundation's work. She'd like to show it to every provincial premier. In one scene, a kid displays the sum total of what's available for a class research project. "One book!" he says indignantly, waving it. In another scene, a teacher comments, "We have whole shelves where the newest book is from 1978. How can kids relate to that?" One school principal, with tears in her eyes, says, "What it would mean to walk into a whole library - it just would be so wonderful! It would be surreal, almost.

"Since the program started, hundreds of schools have applied for funding. The lucky winners get $150,000 each - a fabulous sum to a school whose total library budget might be $163. "When I call the schools, you'd think they were getting a million dollars," says Ms. Reisman.

Ms. Reisman's awareness campaign wasn't timed to coincide with the Ontario election in Ontario. But it hasn't hurt. Yesterday she got the Premier, Dalton McGuinty, to show up at her store and announce an extra $120-million for reading books and school librarians. Although some people may be inclined to see her initiative as basically a PR exercise, Ms. Gillis doesn't think so. "She loves reading herself, and she loves kids." Many of Indigo's employees are also heavily involved. Ms. Reisman says raising literacy levels, by giving kids access to books, is the one great difference she wants her company to make.

In a country where, by one measure, 42 per cent of adults lack basic literacy skills, that's a pretty good goal to have. After all, literacy isn't just about building a more productive economy. It's also about creating citizens.

School library research makes the case for more targeted support

By Meris Stansbury, Assistant Editor, eSchool News

A new survey on the state of school library media centers (LMCs) in the U.S. shows that although school libraries are connected as never before, overall they fall short in many ways, especially on the elementary school level. The survey, conducted by the American Association of School Librarians (AASL), is the first in what AASL intends to be an annual series examining the state of school LMCs

September 18, 2007—The average school library today...

McGuinty touts literacy plan

Toronto Star: September 19, 2007
Robert Benzie, Queen’s Park Bureau Chief

Surrounding himself with schoolchildren for yet another campaign event, Liberal Premier Dalton McGuinty is promising to promote literacy by buying more books for libraries.

McGuinty used the flagship Indigo book store on Bay St. to re-announce his election pledge to spend $120 million over four years for books and librarians in elementary schools.

“It will mean 1.7 million new books each year — more than 430 per school — and additional librarians in schools across Ontario,” he said this morning.

“Most importantly, it will mean high quality, up-to-date books in the hands of young learners, and that’s great news for their reading, writing and long-term prospects for success.”

Flanked by Indigo CEO Heather Reisman, who is selling the school boards the books at cost, the Liberal leader said his announcement “is the most significant investment in school libraries in a generation.”

After being read to by 7-year-old Bruce — who entertained the premier and his wife Terri with a spirited telling of Melanie Watt’s Scaredy Squirrel — McGuinty boasted that the Liberals deserve re-election on Oct. 10 because they have accomplished much to improve literacy in Ontario.

As he has done almost every day so far in the campaign that began Sept. 10, McGuinty ensured the TV and newspaper cameras captured him with children.

Usually, he’s been going to a school to highlight his opposition to Progressive Conservative Leader John Tory’s $400 million scheme to extend funding to other religious schools beyond just those in the Catholic system.

But polls suggest that controversial issue is neither helping McGuinty nor hurting Tory, so the Liberals are scrambling to shift the focus of the campaign

Hope for school libraries (in Ontario, anyway)

Heather Reisman can take a bow today. The Indigo CEO appears to have shamed Ontario premier Dalton McGuinty into promising a major funding boost for the province’s cash-starved school library system...

Wednesday, September 19, 2007


Sept. 19, 2007

VANCOUVER – For the fourth straight year, the provincial government will match donations raised by Can-West’s Raise-a-Reader Day in B.C. on October 3, 2007, Premier Gordon Campbell announced today.

“Literacy is the gateway to lifelong learning, opening the way for meaningful employment, a stronger sense of connection with friends and community, and the ability to rise to our full potential,” said Campbell. “Thanks to Raise-a-Reader, B.C. is well on its way to achieving the goal of being the best educated, most literate jurisdiction on the continent.”

The matching funding for the Raise-a-Reader campaign will go to support many family literacy groups, such as the Canucks Family Education Centre, Literacy BC, S.U.C.C.E.S.S., CNIB, Aboriginal HIPPY Canada (Home Instruction for Parents of Pre-school Youngsters) and Big Sisters of B.C. Lower Mainland.

“More than one million adult British Columbians do not have the skills needed to read a newspaper or to fill out a job application,” said Education Minister Shirley Bond. “Raise-a- Reader has raised over $3.4 million and we’re proud to continue supporting this initiative to improve literacy throughout the province.”

“Premier Campbell and the B.C. government’s support towards the Raise-a-Reader program is greatly valued,” said Kevin Bent, president and publisher of The Vancouver Sun. “The program is entering its 11th year and continues to increase awareness of literacy and raise money to fund children’s literacy programs in B.C.”

Since its inception in Vancouver in 1997, the Raise-a-Reader campaign and its sponsors have made significant contributions to help improve literacy for children and families across the province. The matching funding this year will help to support more than 180 beneficiary organizations and help British Columbia continue to lead the country in Raise-a-Reader fundraising.
The B.C. government has been matching funds raised through the campaign since 2004, and to date has contributed over $1 million to The Vancouver Sun and Victoria Times Colonist campaigns.

Since 2001, the Province has announced over $123.5 million in new literacy programs including ReadNow BC in support of its goal of making British Columbia the best-educated, most literate jurisdiction in North America. ReadNow BC is the Province’s comprehensive literacy action plan to help provide adults, Aboriginal people, K-12 students and preschoolers with the skills they need to succeed. ReadNow BC was introduced in January of this year and has been supported with nearly $44.5 million in provincial funding, including the launch of the ReadNow BC website at

Books For Kids, Librarians For Schools, A Big Boost For Child Literacy

Ontario Liberals Commit $80 million For School Library Books And $40 Million For More Librarians; Indigo To Sell Province Books At Cost

TORONTO, Sept. 19 /CNW/ - Premier Dalton McGuinty announced that Ontario Liberals will commit $120 million over four years for additional books and librarians in elementary school libraries.

"This is the most significant investment in school libraries in a generation," McGuinty said.

"It will mean 1.7 million new books each year - more than 430 per school - and additional librarians in schools across Ontario. Most importantly, it will mean high quality, up-to-date books in the hands of young learners, and that's great news for their reading, writing and long-term prospects for success."

McGuinty was joined by Heather Reisman, CEO of Indigo Books & Music, which has agreed to provide the books at cost.

"I want to thank Heather and Indigo, not only for this generous gesture, but for their long-standing devotion to the cause of child literacy in Canada," McGuinty said.

"They're not merely in the business of selling books, they're dedicated to ensuring every child can discover the magic of reading, because they know that translates into opportunity for every child."

McGuinty said the new investment in school libraries and librarians is part of Ontario Liberals' commitment to improve publicly funded education across the province.

Ontario Liberals have been acting on their literacy priority since 2003, when we developed the Literacy and Numeracy Secretariat (LNS) led by Dr. Avis Glaze. The secretariat works directly with schools, sharing best practices and ensuring they get the resources they need.

The McGuinty government has achieved smaller class sizes in the early grades, more teachers and peace and stability in public education, with no full-time teacher's strikes.

"Together, these positive changes have led to higher test scores and improved student achievement," McGuinty said.

"But there's more to do, and we need to keep moving forward. With Heather and Indigo's help, we can give our children in publicly funded schools the tools they need to succeed," McGuinty said.


CLA: September 19, 2007

This morning, Premier Dalton McGuinty announced his party's plans to invest $120 million over four years into school libraries – $20 million towards books and $10 million on staff each year. This is the first time any government has earmarked funds for staffing. The Ontario School Library Association has expressed its pleasure at the proposal and at the acknowledgment the Premier makes in his statements about the import of school libraries in the success of Ontario students.

The announcement estimates that 1.7 million new books will be added to libraries each year, 430 per school. The announcement indicates that Indigo booksellers have agreed to offer books at cost as part of the overall implementation. Details on how collection purchasing and new staff deployment will be handled must await the outcome of the October 10 election. OSLA has offered its help in dealing with issues surrounding such a rollout. "It is the largest investment in school libraries in a generation," said Mr. McGuinty.

Tuesday, September 18, 2007

ALA celebrates Banned Books Week in virtual world

ALA: September 18, 2007

The American Library Association’s Office for Intellectual Freedom (OIF) is pleased to announce Banned Books Week activities for librarians and the general public in virtual worlds Second Life, Teen Second Life and on social networking sites MySpace and Facebook. ALA is working with other library partners to provide an interactive experience centered on Banned Books Week, September 29-October 6, 2007, to help librarians and others to feel comfortable in social networking spaces and to reach out to new audiences. Partners include Alliance Library System, Alliance Second Life Library, TAP Information Services and the new ALA membership group Virtual Communities and Libraries.

“Since 1982, Banned Books Week has been an opportunity for Americans to learn more about how censorship still occurs, explore a wide range of ideas and authors and celebrate our freedom to read,” said OIF Director Judith Krug. “Online communities present an ideal opportunity to reach out to new audiences and expand our programming.”

“We are thrilled to work with ALA on this exciting project,” stated Kitty Pope, executive director of the Alliance Library System. “It is important to get the word out about censorship and the impact banning books has on democracy and access to information.”

Second Life/Teen Second Life:
To tie in with this year’s theme of “Aye, mateys…celebrate your freedom t' read!,” ALA has created a “Pirate Paradise” in Second Life (SL), a 3D virtual world complete with pirate ship and a wharf with interactive displays on banned books. ALA Banned Books Week graphics will be used to create virtual posters, displays and T-shirts that can be worn by Second Life avatars. The Topeka and Shawnee County (Kan.) Public Library has loaned a virtual display on banned books they created for their National Endowment for the Humanities (NEH) Big Read initiative. All ALA Second Life activities will take place on ALA Arts InfoIsland.

On September 29, ALA will host a kickoff event in Second Life: a pirate's party with the theme “Arrgh Mateys—Celebrate Your Freedom t’ Read!” Later in the week there will be fireworks displays, book discussions and other intellectual freedom educational programs.

Throughout the week, visitors will have access to a professional welcome center, a listening station for podcasts, and an interactive classroom on one of the most frequently challenged books, “The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn.” An updated calendar of SL and real world BBW activities can be found at various SL kiosks and at

Second Life Programs scheduled to date are listed as follows (note: all times are in “SL” time, which corresponds to Pacific Daylight Time). Dates and times are subject to change:
  • September 29, 6–9 p.m.: Kickoff Pirate Party, “Aye, Mateys - Celebrate Your Freedom t' Read!” featuring a pirate ship, music, dancing, displays, fun and free banned books and posters
  • September 30, 7 p.m.: Fireworks
    October 1, 5 p.m.: Book Discussion, “Of Mice and Men,” by John Steinbeck, moderated by Tom Peters of TAP Information Services (Second Life name Maxito Ricardo)
  • October 2, Noon: Fireworks
  • October 2, 5 p.m.: Book Discussion, “I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings,” by Maya Angelou, moderated by Tom Peters
  • October 3, Noon: Intellectual Freedom Program, “Frequently Challenged Books,” moderated by OIF Deputy Director Deborah Caldwell-Stone (Second Life name Pachelbel Dagostino)
  • October 4, 5 p.m.: Intellectual Freedom Program, "Challenges and Customer Service Opportunities," presented by Rose Chenoweth, Alliance Library System (Second Life name Enya Theas).

On Teen Second Life, there will be an underwater pirate ship/banned books display on Eye4You Alliance during all of Banned Books Week. On October 5, from 4–8 p.m. (Second Life/Pacific Time), there will be a “Dress as Your Favorite Banned Book Character” party also on Eye4You Alliance.

Social Networking Sites

ALA has set up a Facebook group for librarians and the public who want to share ideas, experiences, events and banned book recommendations. The name of the group is “Celebrate Your Freedom to Read! Banned Books Week 2007.” Beginning September 24, members of the “Celebrate Your Freedom to Read” Facebook group will receive a Banned Books “Challenging Fact of the Day.” All are welcome to join the group (search for Banned Books Week 2007).

ALA also has a MySpace page for Banned Books Week. The page features a blog about BBW activities, music, videos, photos from BBW events and more. The page can be found at

Second Life ( is a 3-D virtual world with over nine million residents. Over 200 colleges and universities are investigating Second Life as a distance learning tool and there are over 700 librarians in Second Life working collaboratively to test library services in a virtual environment. You must download Second Life software and sign up for an account to participate in Second Life; basic accounts are free.

Facebook ( is a social networking tool that connects people by interest, location and more. Members can share news about themselves and others, favorite books, pictures, movies and to meet other people who live and work around them.

MySpace ( is a social networking site offering an interactive, user-submitted network of friends, personal profiles, blogs, groups, photos, music and videos.

For information on ALA Banned Books Week, contact Nanette Perez at For more information on Second Life events, contact Lori Bell at, in Second Life as Lorelei Junot or Tom Peters at or in Second Life as Maxito Ricardo.

50 E. Huron Chicago, IL 60611 Call Us Toll Free 1-800-545-2433
©2007 American Library Association.
Copyright Statement
View our
Privacy Policy. For questions or comments about the Web site, complete the Feedback Form.
FAQ Member and Customer Service Events Calendar

Monday, September 17, 2007

Key to literacy, librarians now "highly endangered"

Seattle Times: 2007 September 17
By Lynn Thompson, Times Snohomish County Bureau

When Monroe High School librarian Lorraine Monprode took her first job, she was checking out filmstrips and cassette tape players. She knew when a class report on World War I was due because a clutch of students fought over the same volume of the encyclopedia.

Flash forward about 25 years. Monprode guides students researching World War I bunkers to online resources that include video tours of actual bunkers, audio recollections of soldiers who fought in the war, and hyperlinks to other electronic sources, all at the same time a classmate on another library computer searches the same materials.

In the age of information overload, librarians say their skills at finding authoritative and accurate sources and helping students think critically about what they read are more important than ever. But some districts around the state, including Darrington and Granite Falls, have cut librarian positions to balance their budgets.

"The reality is that some districts and principals try to get test scores up by spending more time on test-taking and less time on open-ended projects, what we call discovery learning," said Marianne Hunter, president of the Washington Library Media Association and a high-school librarian in Lacey, Thurston County.

An American Library Association task force last year called school librarians "highly endangered." The task force said laying all accountability for school success on reading and math scores denies the instructional value of libraries and the teaching role of librarians.

"We know the research shows that students who go to schools with strong library programs do better on state tests," Hunter said. "The general trend, unfortunately, is toward cutting."

Last year, the Darrington School District cut two librarians. This year, Granite Falls cut 1.5 librarians, leaving 1.5 to staff its four schools. Monroe didn't replace one retiring librarian, so some librarians now travel between schools. Marysville cut one elementary-school librarian. Around the state, Federal Way schools cut 20 librarians, and the Spokane School District made 10 elementary-school librarian positions half-time.

So far, most Snohomish County school districts have preserved their librarians. Edmonds, Everett, Lake Stevens, Mukilteo, Stanwood-Camano and Sultan all have full-time, certificated teacher librarians in all but some alternative schools.

In Arlington, one librarian divides her time between two middle schools and a small, rural school has a part-time librarian. Snohomish has part-time librarians only at two small elementary schools.

And some small districts which once relied partly on library aides have made adding professional librarians a priority.

"Our librarians have become central to our literacy efforts," said Lakewood superintendent Larry François. "They support the classroom teachers and reading instructors. They get texts at the right reading level and interest area into the hands of individual students."

But he said at budget-cutting time, librarians and counselors are vulnerable.
"When your back is against the wall and you're trying to keep reductions out of the classroom, those are the positions you turn to," François said.

Monroe officials say district libraries are crucial for teaching students research and critical-thinking skills. The district last year adopted an information-literacy curriculum called Big 6 developed by the University of Washington.

Under the program, librarians are trained on how to work with teachers and students to define a research question, gather relevant information, synthesize their findings and evaluate its accuracy and usefulness.

"Less than 10 percent of information on the Internet is educational and authoritative," said Monroe's Monprode, who is also library program coordinator for the district. "Do you really want to go through 3.4 million hits on Google?"

At Edmonds-Woodway High School, librarian Becky Endlich said teenagers who have grown up with computers may seem sophisticated in their use of technology, but critical-thinking skills still have to be taught.

"Their mental processes are still being built. They still need help in selecting resources; they still need someone to talk it over with and guide their thinking," she said.

And while electronic-reference works and databases are now available to school libraries, they're expensive and must be updated every year, librarians say.
Washington is one of the few states that doesn't fund school libraries; instead, they are supported by local levy dollars. Monroe spends about $4.80 annually per pupil; that hasn't changed in the past five years.

"The cost of books and subscriptions have dramatically increased, so we know this funding is not enough," said Monroe's Fran Mester, assistant superintendent for instruction.

Today's school library and media center also provides students access via computer when the school building is closed. Students typically log on to a library site and can use all of the databases and electronic books from home.

For students who don't have computers at home, time in the library and help from librarians can help bridge the technology gap, Mester said.

Mike Eisenberg, dean emeritus of the UW Information School (formerly the Graduate School of Library and Information Science), said that interviews with incoming freshman and outgoing seniors at the UW show that what students most value about their education isn't the content of a particular class but rather the life skills of problem-solving and critical thinking, the same skills librarians are trained to develop and promote.

"Librarians are reading advocates. They're book pushers. Isn't that what we want for our schools?"

Lynn Thompson: 425-745-7807 or

Thursday, September 13, 2007

Library community celebrates the world at your fingertips

CLA: September 13, 2007

(Ottawa) – October 2007 is Canadian Library Month, a chance for Canadians to discover the worlds of fun and knowledge at their fingertips through libraries.

“This year's theme of 'Libraries: the world at your fingertips' is an invitation to all Canadians to enter the magical universe of imagination, reading, and learning -- whether for leisure, work, school or research. We create bridges that span the globe regardless of format -- websites, e-resources, audio, video, books, newspapers and magazines,” says Canadian Library Association President Dr. Alvin Schrader.

Libraries will use the month to illustrate the many programs and services that libraries use to help Canadians get access to the information they need, and to advance reading and Canadian culture. All types of libraries and library services will be participating.

More than just books, public libraries are the heart-and-soul of their communities, providing high-speed access to the Internet and helping users learn how to find quality sites, in addition to a good read. They are among the few public spaces still open to all, regardless of age, gender, race, social status, economic circumstances, occupation, sexual orientation or language. School libraries play a pivotal role in students’ learning. Research shows there is a direct link between having trained school library staff with solid collections, and students achieving academic success.

Libraries at Canada’s academic institutions – universities and colleges – are critical to the creation of new knowledge as well as helping students access the knowledge of the present and past. Over 1,100 special libraries across Canada – in private businesses, government agencies and departments, and not-for-profit organizations – help their companies, departments or agencies be more productive and contribute to making better decisions across all sectors of the economy.

The library community is a major sector of the Canadian economy. Public libraries alone spend one billion dollars a year providing services and collections to the people of Canada. University and college libraries spend in excess of $200 million annually solely on their collections of books, electronic journals and other materials. Overall, there are 57,000 library workers in Canada serving Canadians in every walk of life through a network of 22,000 locations all across the country.

Canadian Library Month is organized by a pan-Canadian volunteer committee supported by the Canadian Library Association.

For further information, visit the CLA website: or the CLA contact Judy Green, 613-232-9625 ext. 322 or

Wednesday, September 12, 2007

BCTF to support CUPE library workers in job action

VICTORIA, Sept. 12 /CNW/ - CUPE 410, representing 250 employees of the Greater Victoria Public Library system, has enlisted the support of the BC Teachers' Federation for its second job action since serving strike notice last week.

The job action, to be held outside all GVPL branches, takes place tomorrow (Thursday) from 2 pm to 5 pm. Themed "Education and the Public Library", it coincides with the time students arrive after school to use library services for homework and research.

Susan Lambert, first vice-president of the BC Teachers' Federation, will be in attendance at the Central library branch on 735 Broughton Street at 2pm.

She will bring greetings and support from the BCTF and talk about the important link between the education system and public libraries.

Lambert, a teacher-librarian, will also be available for media interviews along with CUPE 410 president Ed Seedhouse, who will have further news to report when the job action ends at 5 pm.

WHEN: Thursday, September 13, 2007, 2-5 p.m.
WHERE: All Greater Victoria Public Library branches

For further information:
Ed Seedhouse, CUPE 410 president: (250) 588-9565;
Tammy Simonds, CUPE Representative: (250) 812-7197;
Dan Gawthrop, CUPE Communications: (604) 999-6132

Senate Endorses Adopt a School Library Month

By Debra Lau Whelan -- School Library Journal, 9/12/2007 9:29:00 AM

The U.S. Senate last Friday adopted a resolution designating September as “Adopt a School Library Month.” And while the move was a nice gesture, the
American Library Association (ALA) hopes it doesn’t detract from passage of the Strengthening Kids’ Interest in Learning and Libraries (SKILLs) Act.

The resolution, which doesn’t have a companion in the House, says the goal is to “raise public awareness about the important role school libraries play in the academic achievement of children” and calls of the federal government, states, local governments, schools, nonprofit organizations, businesses, and the public to “observe the month with appropriate ceremonies, programs, and other activities.”

Unlike a bill, a resolution is nonbinding and doesn’t carry any legal weight.

Emily Sheketoff, executive director of ALA’s Washington office calls the resolution purely symbolic. “It doesn’t do anything,” she says. “It just says, “Do it.” It’s kind of like telling someone to put up a flag on Flag Day.”

Sheketoff fears that lawmakers who backed the resolution will say, “Now I don’t have to vote for the SKILLs Act,” she says, adding that “I hope this doesn’t mean that [lawmakers] aren’t going to put any effort into passing the SKILLs Act, which would have a positive impact on school librarians.”

The SKILLs Act, which has backing from Senators
Jack Reed (D-RI) and Thad Cochran (R-MS) and Representatives Raul Grijalva (D-AZ) and Vernon Ehlers (R-MI), would require a state-certified media specialist in every K-12 school building by 2010 and include school librarians in the “highly qualified” category of No Child Left Behind (NCLB). The proposed legislation would be an amendment to the No Child Left Behind Act, which is up for renewal later this year.

School libraries key to literacy

Times Colonist Letter
Wednesday, September 12, 2007

Re: "Lagging literacy hurts us," opinion, Sept. 9.

Frank McKenna's editorial really tried my literacy skills. There was so much that wasn't said!

It is telling that the lengthy article, even as nebulous as it was, doesn't once mention a primary heart of literacy -- the school library.

Politicians of McKenna's ilk have done all they can to diminish this essential resource.

In B.C., since 2000, 100 teacher librarian jobs have been cut. The B.C. teachers' collective agreement says there should be one full-time teacher librarian for every 702 students.

Only nine per cent of elementary schools and four per cent of B.C.'s secondary schools meet that modest goal.

As with so much else, we're approaching Alberta's neanderthal vision, where the number of teacher librarians has shrunk by more than half in the past decade so there is now one for every 3,000 students.

Sara Shields, Victoria.

British Columbians losing ground

Times Colonist Letter
Wednesday, September 12, 2007

Literacy rates are lowest in countries where people's basic needs aren't being met.

Here in Canada, and especially in British Columbia, we are moving backward.

We've made no progress on child poverty; the number of families living below the poverty line is increasing. We've made no progress on affordable child care.

As an early childhood educator, I know no one wants to -- or can -- pay us a living wage either.

In every sector, wages have been rolled back and benefits clawed away. Some families where one or both parents are employed are still homeless or living in marginal accommodation.

You can't do homework in a car. You can't read to your children if you have to work two or three jobs just to provide for them.

People need a decent standard of living first. Then they can learn to read and write.

Lisa Dunsmore, Ucluelet.

First, we must teach kids to think

Times Colonist Letter
Wednesday, September 12, 2007

Re: "Lagging literacy hurts us," opinion, Sept. 9.

Frank McKenna puts his finger squarely on one of Canada's greatest dirty little secrets: We are producing a generation of functional illiterates.

What he does not deal with is the other side of this educational failure, that we are producing a generation of kids who lack the ability to think clearly enough to know what it is they want to say or write.

No amount of spelling bees, dictation, grammar, spelling or punctuation is going to be of the slightest use to kids who cannot think logically, draw conclusions based on evidence and express themselves in ways that can be understood by others.

Until we are a society that understands what it is to assimilate new information, integrate it with what we already know, and test it against objective reality, we are likely to continue down the road of feel-good, fuzzy thinking because we don't know what else to do.

When kids know what it is they want to say and have confidence that it really means something, they will want to find ways to say and write it.

Only then will we be able to claim we have provided them with an education.

Tom Masters, Chemainus.

Tuesday, September 11, 2007

Media Specialist Testifies in House Urging Lawmakers to Pass SKILLs Act

By SLJ Staff -- School Library Journal, 9/11/2007

Just how important are school librarians? California media specialist Mary Poeck testified in the House yesterday about the crucial role her profession plays in achieving the goals of No Child Left (NCLB) Behind and urged lawmakers to support the Strengthening Kids’ Interest in Learning and Libraries (SKILLs) Act, which would require a highly qualified librarian in every school.

Speaking to members of the U.S. House Committee on Education and Labor, Poeck, a coordinator of library media services for the
Vallejo City Unified School District in California, said multiple studies have shown that “there is a clear link between school library media programs and student achievement, when those libraries are staffed by an experienced school library media specialist.”

She went on to say, “[The SKILLs Act] is critical to meeting the goals of NCLB in that it requires school districts, to the extent feasible, to ensure that every school within the district employs at least one highly qualified school library media specialist in each school library."

American Library Association has applauded the objectives of NCLB, but says the law’s requirement that there be “highly qualified” teachers in core classes should be extended to school libraries.

"Through the personal experience and national statistics conveyed in her testimony, Ms. Poeck makes a slam-dunk case for including school libraries and school librarians in any legislation concerning this country’s educators," says ALA President Loriene Roy.

NCLB is up for reauthorization and the SKILLs Act is being suggested as an amendment to the law.

Tandem Library Group Launches Book Blog for Librarians

SLJ Staff -- School Library Journal, 9/11/2007 2:10:00 PM

There’s a new blog exclusively for librarians that discusses the hottest new books and trends in children’s and young adult literature.

Launched by Tandem Library Books, which recently changed its name from Sagebrush, Tandem Insights is written by certified teachers and librarians with MLS degrees, who are a part of Tandem Library Books’ collection development team.

The goal, says Collection Development Team Manager Emily Jones, is to help librarians and teachers strenghten their collections with quality titles. “My team reads thousands of books each year across all reading levels, subject matters, and genres,” says Jones, who has an MLS. “We are excited about the opportunity to share our thoughts about great books with a wider audience.”

The new blog is available on the Tandem Library Books Web site by clicking on the “Tandem Insights” button.

Sunday, September 9, 2007

Lagging literacy hurts us

Insufficient reading skills in Canada translate into declining productivity levels

Frank McKenna
Special to Times Colonist
Sunday, September 09, 2007

There is a prevailing view that Canada is a literate nation, with individuals fully capable of participating in the modern economy. Evidence suggests otherwise. An alarming number of citizens are unable to comprehend, compute and communicate at a level deemed necessary for a knowledge worker.

Almost four in 10 youths at age 15 have insufficient reading skills; while more than two in 10 university graduates, almost five in 10 Canadian adults and six in 10 immigrants have inadequate levels of proficiency in English or French.

Moreover, discrepancies exist across regions, gender and socio-economic lines. Divides are also present between rural and urban residents, as well as between Canadian-born individuals and new arrivals.

These outcomes pose a serious threat to our competitive standing in the global marketplace.

Poor literacy rates have contributed to our anemic productivity levels. Out of 23 major industrialized nations, Canada's international productivity standing has slid from third to 16th position in recent years.

From an annual trend rate of two per cent productivity growth in the 1990s, the business sector has only been able to eke out an average annual increase of one per cent between 2002 and 2006.

Reversing this dismal trend will require a more skilled workforce, which is tied to both education and literacy -- as each is known to reinforce the other. Moreover, boosting productivity will lift the standard of living of all Canadians.

A Statistics Canada study has found that a one-per-cent increase in literacy relative to other countries produces a 2.5-per-cent increase in the level of labour productivity. That would mean a boost in national income by $32 billion for every one-per-cent increase in literacy scores.

Addressing our literacy challenge has as much to do with remaining relevant in the global economy as with deriving rewards from it. Canada has experienced a steady shift toward a services-based economy, which now represents 70 per cent of GDP. Within services, the strongest growth comes from employers that require high skills -- such as information and communication technologies, health care and public administration. Higher literacy rates are needed to further facilitate these changes and reduce the economic and social costs borne by workers displaced in this new environment. And the demands for higher literacy skills will only increase in the future.

The benefits also extend well beyond the overall economy. As discussed in a recent TD report on literacy, raising the performance of those with inadequate literacy could create thousands of jobs, significantly lower unemployment, and materially boost personal incomes. To illustrate, the average Canadian with strong literacy skills, as based on benchmark international literacy surveys, has income twice that of individuals with poor literacy abilities. They are also less likely to become unemployed, experience shorter durations of unemployment, and are more likely to be successful in developing new skills. In other words, higher literacy unlocks potential.

These are compelling reasons why policymakers should treat literacy outcomes as a national priority.

Strategies to improve literacy must emphasize youth programs, particularly in the earliest development stages and among youths from disadvantaged backgrounds. The rationale is straightforward: The benefits accrue over a longer time span than for adults. Moreover, literacy appears to be a virtuous circle in skill development. Higher literacy promotes greater education that, in turn, lifts literacy further and helps to develop skills. This self-reinforcing cycle leads to greater returns over time.

Yet one needs to be careful about basing policy on cost-benefit analysis alone. We do not truly know the impact of one dollar invested in child/youth literacy relative to one dollar in adult literacy. Further research is needed in this area. Moreover, the cost-benefit approach does not capture the societal gains. How does one measure the increased community participation of adults with greater literacy skills? What is the dollar value on a higher quality of life and greater independence for older Canadians?

Both the provinces and the federal government have been heavily involved in literacy initiatives in recent years -- and this is most welcome. However, there is little evidence of any improvement in literacy levels over that time, which suggests that the current approach is not working.

It may be that meaningful progress is impeded by lack of co-ordination. For instance, youth literacy falls largely under the umbrella of education, a provincial responsibility, but immigration is a federal concern.

There is overlap, too, in adult literacy. At the federal level, Human Resources and Social Development Canada runs the Office of Literacy and Essential Skills. Indian and Northern Affairs Canada, Canadian Heritage, and Citizenship and Immigration Canada also run literacy-promoting activities. Meanwhile, the provinces have their own adult literacy initiatives through a variety of programs, often tied to education.

This situation might be remedied if the federal government takes responsibility for setting national literacy standards through a centre of excellence that collects best practices and acts as a repository of research and analysis. Meanwhile, the provincial governments could become explicitly responsible for program delivery. Both levels of government would need to provide financing for the initiatives.

The private sector must also play a role, given how much it has to gain from improved outcomes. Many businesses already provide substantial training programs, but they tend to be focused on specific skill sets. Companies should think about offering employees the opportunity to develop language skills and more basic abilities that could reinforce or bolster their literacy. This can be done in-house or through employer-sponsored training. Businesses can also support literacy initiatives through their charitable giving activities. TD, for instance, invests more than $1.5 million in child literacy each year.

International Literacy Day, which takes place every Sept. 8, encourages people worldwide to recognize the importance of this critical skill set. This should also be a time of reflection for Canadians. Our future well-being requires higher literacy levels. We must make this a national priority, with both public policies and business initiatives that derive the greatest long-term gains.

Frank McKenna is former premier of New Brunswick and former Canadian ambassador to the United States. He is the deputy chairman of TD Bank Financial Group.

Going back to school is now free

Kate Webb
The Province: Sunday, September 09, 2007

High school used to be a one-shot deal -- but now students who want to return to finish their diplomas or upgrade their courses will be able to do it for free.

B.C.'s Ministries of Education and Advanced Education said Friday they will inject a combined $17.5 million in new funding for adult basic-education courses at 18 B.C. post-secondary institutions, including Vancouver Community College, where the initiative was unveiled.

The decision is expected to affect about 28,000 students who enroll in the adult courses each year, each of which can cost anywhere from $50 to $516.

Minister of Education Shirley Bond said it was an emotional moment as she announced the upcoming launch of a $200,000 literacy website -- -- given her experience talking with illiterate adults across the province.

"In British Columbia today, there are one million British Columbians who would have trouble being able to order what they would like for breakfast because they can't read the menu," she said. "Our goal is to be the most literate jurisdiction on the continent within the next 10 years."

The ReadNow BC website allows users with reading difficulties to learn about literacy programs through auditory messages.

"We talk about literacy all the time, and then we put that information into print," said Bond. "We have to think differently about how we reach out to those people."

The province's free courses will be made available in three stages. As of Friday, all students can now take free online courses through the province's virtual school, LearnNow BC, at

By January, students will also have access to tuition-free adult basic eduction at 18 public post-secondary institutions.

Then, next September, the program will expand to school districts.

The move was hailed by both the Canadian Federation of Students and the First Nations Education Steering Committee as a victory for the 71 per cent of adult basic-ed students who live below the poverty line.

"We're very pleased. Students have been pushing for this for a number of years now," said Shamus Reid, B.C. chairperson of the student federation. "It's going to save in the millions collectively, [since] we've seen tuition fees as high as $500 for a Dogwood [adult high-school diploma] course."