Take your voice to where it’ll be most effective.
– Buffy Sainte-Marie
Did you hear that? The resounding cheers from Ontario parents of children with dyslexia and reading disabilities—rejoicing because their voices had finally been heard. The Ontario education system was not teaching their children how to read and the Right to Read Inquiry proved it.
After gathering testimonies from reading experts, teachers and parents from across the province over two years, the Ontario Human Rights Commission (OHRC) Right to Read Inquiry concluded that Ontario’s public education system failed to teach students with dyslexia and reading disabilities—how to read. Why? Because the Ministry of Education did not use evidence-based reading instruction methods to effectively teach these students. Something dyslexia advocates had known for years.
“Students are not just being denied an equal right to read—their future, and the generations that follow, could be impacted,” said OHRC Chief Commissioner Patricia DeGuire.
“We were delighted to see that Ontario parents and students were listened to and heard, not only at the in-person hearings—such as the one conducted in Ottawa in March 2020—but also through an on-line survey and emailed personal experiences sent to the Commission,” remarked Natalie Gallimore, Decoding Dyslexia Ontario volunteer research lead.
OHRC delivered targeted recommendations to teach every child how to read
The Commission’s express recommendations to the Ministry of Education, school boards and faculties of education were clear:
- Adopt a new Kindergarten Program and Grades 1 to 8 Language curriculum that:
- features direct and systematic instruction in foundational reading skills, and
- prepares current and future teachers on evidence-based approaches to teach students to read
- Screen Kindergarten to Grade 2 students twice a year to identify students at risk for reading difficulties, and use standardized, evidence-based screening tools
- Standardize and provide stable funding for evidence-based reading interventions
- Make access to interventions equitable for all students
- Provide and support timely and effective accommodation, including greater access to evidence-based software and assistive technology
- Improve access to professional assessments and ensure greater consistency and transparency in the assessment process
- Set clear and consistent standards for school boards and mandate better data collection, analysis and reporting
- Improve communication with students and parents
- Work with experts in the science of reading to implement the OHRC’s recommendations.
Ontario educators told to recognize “dyslexia” as real term
Ms. Gallimore was especially pleased to see that the Commission recommended the Ministry of Education, faculties of education, and school boards “explicitly recognize the term “dyslexia”. The Ontario education system refused to use this term despite the American Psychological Association’s Diagnostic or Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-5) recognizing it as an appropriate term for “a pattern of learning difficulties characterized by problems with accurate or fluent word recognition, poor decoding, and poor spelling abilities.”
As a result of the Inquiry recommendations, the Ontario government is changing the curriculum and its approach to teaching early reading beginning this September. Stephen Lecce, Ontario education minister said, “Ontario is overhauling the language curriculum with a focus on phonics, investing in new reading supports for students, and hiring more specialized staff.”
Lastly, a shoutout to all the dyslexia advocates in Ottawa, surrounding regions, and across Ontario, who testified, rallied, persisted, and made their voices heard to the Ontario Human Rights Commission. Well done!
For more links on the OHRC Inquiry, check out these links:
OHRC Inquiry Press Release, Executive Summary, and Full Report:
Ministry of Education announcements:
Open Door previous post on the OHRC Inquiry:
Marion May is the Blog Curator and Content Writer for The Open Door blog as well as a reading and spelling tutor for The Open Door, tutoring children between the ages of seven and 10. Her blog content is “local, organic and specific” and is relevant for parents of children with dyslexia.
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