Hi there tout la gang,

We don't have much to say about research in practice at the Café right now

but we are talking policy and practice over here now: Literacy Enquirers.

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

strategic planning

We need your help.

It looks as though Literacies is facing another break in funding with no real idea how long that break will be.*

Some days we are resigned to the fact that Issue #10 will be the last, but as we put Issue #9 together we are struck, as always, by how important it is for us to have this place to express and share all the things we learn, understand, experience, think, create and dream.

For our forum this time we invite you to tell us what you like about Literacies, what could be better, what you think of some options for continuing to publish during a funding hiatus, and what you would be willing/able todo to support the work of Literacies during the hiatus and beyond. We will use your input to make decisions about our future, to demonstrate that people care about Literacies and to advocate for the options that are important to you. We’re ready to hear from you!

There are 22 questions in this survey. Most questions are multiple choice It will take approximately 15 minutes (?) to complete the questionnaire.

The survey will be open from October 13 until December 1.

To read the questions before you take the survey, download this PDF document (40kb).

*Literacies is funded by the Office of Literacy and Essential Skills (OLES) for one more issue. The last OLES request for proposals was to develop workplace literacy tools and resources. The work that we at Literacies do--practitioner networking and knowledge mobilization--does not meet the criteria for this call. OLES has promised future calls but as this issue goes to press an election has been called. Regardless of the outcome, we know that there is often a post-election freeze on requests for proposals.

Friday, October 10, 2008


Cheryl Turner from Guelph Action Read talks about participating in the Tongues in Trees project:

Tongues in Trees was an outdoor installation at the MacDonald Stewart Art Centre as a part of the Shakespeare - Made in Canada Festival. Dawn Matheson, a multimedia artist and writer living in Guelph, volunteered at a poetry reading that included adult literacy learners from Action Read Guelph and was inspired by the voices speaking their own words and those of famous poets. Dawn and a group of learners worked to reveal Shakespeare as the “artist of and for Everyman, Everywoman” he really is.

Happy harvest weekend.

Thursday, October 9, 2008


The Ontario Literacy Coalition conference was a bewildering, challenging and exhilarating 3 days. Like all the best conferences, it was a fantastic opportunity to meet new people and network with esteemed colleagues.

The learner forum was incredibly energizing and I found myself being drawn there quite a bit more than I had planned. The creation of the special bulletin resonated with some learners at the forum. I think that both practitioners and learners are concerned about being left out when decisions that will affect them are being discussed and made. Learners want to read the two reports for themselves in order to contribute their own response to the recommendations. They have asked for clear language versions that are accessible to learners.

Alan Quigley, in his keynote speech, reminded us of how far our knowledge, skills and values have taken us. At the conference our great capacity to apply our heads, hands and hearts to potentially divisive conversations was challenged a number of times but, in the end, most were navigated in a way that was positive, inclusive and constructive. Great courage was shown, great leadership came to light and innovative approaches flourished.

Thanks again to the OLC staff and committee for a most memorable and engaging opportunity. Thanks to all who participated for enriching, energizing, supporting, stretching, reaching, demanding, pushing, questioning... in ways that make us proud to know you.

The OLC will be posting information and reults from the conference on their newly launched website as soon as they can.

Monday, October 6, 2008

reading the reports

Recently a group of literacy workers and researchers came together to apply their expertise and analysis to two reports that could inform education policy decisions in Canada.

Learning Literacy in Canada: Evidence from the International Survey of Reading Skills, was released by Statistics Canada in January 2008. It used data from the International Survey of Reading Skills (ISRS) to offer information that can help “policy makers, researchers and practitioners” decide “how to plan and deliver appropriate and efficient reading instruction for different adult learners” (p. 19).

Reading the Future: Planning to meet Canada’s future literacy needs is a synthesis of work by a number of researchers who were involved in developing IALSS. This report, released by the Canadian Council on Learning in July 2008, offers program recommendations, practices, and strategies for improving the skills of the low-skilled readers identified by the ISRS.

We have created Reading the Reports (PDF download) to let you know what they are saying. We hope you find this brief summary of their discussion helpful and informative.

The group is: Tannis Atkinson (editor of Literacies), Dr. Pat Campbell (Grass Roots Press / Education for Change), Dr. Richard Darville (Carleton University), Brigid Hayes (Brigid Hayes Consulting), Dr. Nancy Jackson (Ontario Institute for Studies in Education of the University of Toronto), and Tracey Mollins (publisher of Literacies).

What conversations have you been having about these reports? Let us know your thoughts, ideas and questions.

Friday, October 3, 2008

debating literacy - not so much

Well, did everybody survive the debates last night? Whew!

At about 9:30, literacy and the cuts to literacy programs finally got a mention from Elizabeth May in a discussion of cuts to the arts. Stephen Harper responded that the program that was cut was not a program that taught people to read. And that was it.

They may not have wanted to talk about it last night but, as a reminder, here is what was cut:

The Adult Learning, Literacy and Essential Skills Program (ALLESP) [now Office of Learning and Essential Skills: OLES] is funded by Human Resources and Social Development Canada (HRSDC). It is a program that assists not only adult learners throughout the country, but teachers and tutors as well, in the form of training, professional development, curriculum development, research and knowledge exchange on best teaching practices. The network of literacy and learning coalitions that have been built up around this funding has enabled thousands of adults in [Canada] to continue their education by upgrading their reading and writing skills. Many literacy organizations help those from marginalized backgrounds, such as single mothers, underemployed individuals, persons on social assistance, immigrants and Aboriginal people.

As part of the $1 billion Conservative program cuts, local and regional literacy organizations that conduct capacity building initiatives, research and knowledge exchange, and promotion and awareness work will now stand to lose their HRSDC funding – a total of $17.7 million dollars over the next two years ($5.8 million in 2006-2007, and $11.92 million in 2007-2008). Although proposals have already been submitted, no funds will be allocated to current applicants of the 2006 ALLESP local and regional call for proposals. This local and regional stream of the ALLESP has been cancelled.

The government has designated the literacy cut under the heading of “Value for Money”, that is to say, “funding for third parties to further their interests or programs that are not effective, do not achieve results or are being refocused or targeted for improvement.” HRSDC plans to instead focus on its national ALLESP funding stream.

Since literacy falls into the category of education, many direct service agencies running literacy programs receive provincial funds from bodies such as the [provincial ministries] or school boards, and therefore may not see any funding cuts to their programs. This provincial money is often exhausted by agencies to provide the bare necessities in order for the program to run, such as providing a physical space, teaching materials, and instructors. However, the mounting fear is that these cuts will harm quality of service and the ability for adult learners to effectively take part in literacy programs, as those who will be hardest hit are literacy networks and coalitions. These coalitions play a substantial role in supporting direct service agencies, by providing essential services such as training for tutors and teachers, developing resource and learning materials, program development, advocacy, and research. Direct service agencies often do not have the proper resources to perform these fundamental tasks and therefore depend on coalitions for this assistance.

Because Canada is behind other industrialized nations by not having a national literacy strategy, the coalitions and networks have been acting as the string holding together Canada’s patchwork of literacy programs and services. The funding provided by HRSDC has greatly contributed to building a strong network of agencies and coalitions to help support adult learners in developing their literacy skills. The cut in funding will only erode this support network, therein isolating service providers and practitioners in our communities, hindering both knowledge exchange and the promotion of literacy in Canada.
from Faces of the Cuts: The Impact of Federal Program Cuts on Communities in Toronto - An Early Look at Selected Areas Slated for Funding Cuts Forum Convened by Community Social Planning Council of Toronto

Just to let certain political leaders know, even if you are not talking about literacy, funding for literacy teaching, research and development and literacy policy in Canada, WE are. And if your own numbers are correct and "4 out of 10 adult Canadians have low literacy levels" - that is a lot of votes.

Wednesday, October 1, 2008

doing and being

I have been doing a bit of research for a workshop about creating inclusive and accessible learning opportunities in multi-cultural settings. Whew. One thing I found was this video by IllDoctrine. He makes the point that, when you want to call a behaviour racist it is better to talk about the doing as racist and not accuse the person of being racist because that is a no win argument. It is a point that has been made by others but I think that IllD does it particularly well.