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September 28, 2020

Early Learning Reflections

The recent federal Throne Speech included a long-awaited commitment to early learning. Given how important the early years are to literacy development, it would be an understatement to say we are heartened by this news. We’re excited. But there is still much work to be done.
Right now more than one quarter of Canada’s children start school without the fundamental skills they need to learn to read. Many never catch up. However, more children would start out ready to learn if their families had resources to support early literacy development at home, high-quality early childhood education, and timely identification of learning differences.
Prof. Julia O’Sullivan of the Dalla Lana School of Public Health, University of Toronto, outlined the issues around children’s literacy in an excellent column in the Globe & Mail earlier this month. She called it a crisis and predicted that 25 percent of children finishing Grade 3 will not be able to read and write well enough to keep up in Grade 4. The pandemic will only make it worse, she added, due to the extra long break from school.
We agree, and we shared a letter to the editor to that effect. We also noted that the first five years of a child’s life can make a huge difference to their eventual literacy outcomes. Surrounding children with words right from birth supports the brain development that prepares them to eventually learn to read.
Leading up to the Throne Speech, we heard a number of voices calling for greater investment in early childhood education. Brian Porter, CEO of the Bank of Nova Scotia, for instance, wrote a piece in the Globe & Mail outlining specific measures the government should take to increase availability and quality of childcare so more parents – especially mothers – can get back to work. It’s good for women, families and our country, he noted. 
It seems the federal government is listening. The commitment to a national system of childcare and early learning that we heard in the Throne Speech is encouraging, and we are hopeful.
We want to see word-rich environments available to all children and we know that an accessible, affordable, high-quality early education system can make a big difference to setting children up to learn to read.
We will be watching closely as decisions are made in the weeks and months to come. We welcome your thoughts on this important conversations. Connect with us at