Dr. Debby Chesnie Cooper

January 24, 2008 11:07 ET

Treat the problem, not the symptoms

Underachieving students and high drop-out rates are a literacy problem, not a racial one

Attention: Assignment Editor, City Editor, Education Editor, News Editor TORONTO, ONTARIO, MEDIA RELEASE--(Marketwire - Jan. 24, 2008) - There has been much research done linking low literacy with high drop-out rates.

Recently, a concerned TD Canada Trust published a report which stated that low literacy rates are hampering life skills and affecting business. It also stated that if left unaddressed, other issues may arise which lead to increased high school drop out rates, crime and unemployment.

That high drop-out rates due to low literacy exist should not be a surprise. According to The Movement for Canadian Literacy (MCL), low literacy is also closely linked to poverty, poor health and unemployment.

There was a time when there were lots of good jobs for people who couldn't read, but those days are gone. Today a person who can't read has trouble just finding work of any kind. As a result, people who cannot read, fall outside the norms of society with alarming frequency.

Seventy per cent of the people in jail in North America read at the two lowest literacy levels, which means they read nothing, or only well enough to understand the directions on a pill bottle.

While the Toronto District School Board's consideration to start an Afro-centric school could benefit the community by instilling an increased appreciation for culture, instilling pride of heritage, among other things, it will do little to reduce drop-out rates because drop-out rates are not a racial issue, but one of literacy. Low literacy rates affect all cultures and socio-economic classes as evidenced by The Movement for Canadian Literacy (MCL) which estimates that 9 million out of 36 million Canadians lack the literacy skills needed for daily living.

"The problem is low literacy, but to correct it we must deal with the root cause - ineffective teaching methodologies," says Dr. Deborah Chesnie Cooper, Developmental and Educational Psychologist and Director of The Chesnie Cooper Educational Centre*. "For years the teaching methodology used by the educational system was Whole Language, but they admit now, that it was faulty at best."

Seventy-four per cent of children who are unsuccessful readers in the third grade are still unsuccessful readers in the ninth grade (Journal of Child Neurology, January, 1995).

"It would be easy to blame the students for their lack of progress, and many mistakenly do, except for the fact that over 85 per cent of Canadians are either average or above average in intelligence, so the students are smart enough to understand - they just can't read well enough to understand what they read," says Dr. Debby Cooper. "However, with early detection and successful remediation, teaching of basic reading skills is possible and can lead to effective change - I know this to be true because throughout my 30 years of practice working with those with low literacy, dyslexia and Learning Disorders (LD's), I've seen success first hand."

Every child has the ability to learn, but some just learn differently. /For further information: For futher information contact: Colin Reade, 905.626.0067, creade@stratcommsolutions.ca or Peter Turkington, 905.901.9218, pturkington@stratcommsolutions.ca/ IN: EDUCATION, HEALTH

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