MCRC Response to OHRC Right to Read Inquiry Report
Literacy is a human right. Education, and specifically literacy, has the power and agency to become a social equalizer for marginalized populations, and a social determinant of health (SDH), well-being, and life success for children and their families.
The Manitoba Council of Reading Clinicians (MCRC) would like to acknowledge that the Ontario Human Rights Commission (OHRC) Right to Read: Public inquiry into human rights issues affecting students with reading disabilities is an important document that highlights the fact that students with dyslexia, as well as other students, are not receiving the evidence-based, explicit, and systematic instruction that they need to be successful in developing early foundational reading skills. The inquiry found that most students are not being taught to read in a way that aligns with research, but often using models that are based on philosophies or beliefs that are both inefficient and ineffective, such as using cues to guess words rather than letter-sound knowledge to decode words. The report provides evidence-based recommendations that align with research to support students in developing into proficient readers and writers. These recommendations are echoed by researchers, educators, speech-language pathologists, audiologists, and psychologists. As reading clinicians, we also support these recommendations.
An important theme throughout the report is that early foundational skills are critical to developing strong reading comprehension and are part of comprehensive, evidence-based language arts instruction that includes writing. Many students who have difficulty decoding words have excellent language comprehension but are not able to access appropriate texts at their level of understanding. The Right to Read Inquiry draws heavily on the findings of key reports (National Reading Panel, Expert Panel on Early Reading in Ontario, The Rose Report, and The Canadian Language and Literacy Research Network Report) that synthesize the large body of scientific research on how children learn to read. These reports all recommend systematic teaching of foundational skills that will lead to efficient word-reading, which includes phonemic awareness, phoneme-grapheme connections, and how to use this knowledge to decode and spell words. Many teachers in the inquiry reported that they were not adequately prepared to teach reading and writing, especially for those students who find literacy learning challenging.
Reading research is not a movement—it is a continuous systematic investigation to establish the best approaches to teach students to read and understand text. The OHRC Right to Read report goes well beyond the misconception that phonics is the only component of literacy instruction. It emphasizes comprehensive literacy instruction that includes phonemic awareness, phonics, fluency, vocabulary, and reading comprehension within the context of culturally responsive teaching that reflects the diverse sociocultural backgrounds of students. Manitoba Council of Reading Clinicians support the OHRC Right to Read’s findings and look forward to contributing to the important literacy initiative of the Manitoba Human Rights Commission’s Special Project on the Human Rights Issues Affecting Student with Reading
Committee members include: Rosana Montebruno (co-chair), Heather Khan (co-chair), Sandra Janzen (MCRC President), Allison Aitken, Khalie Jackson-Davis, Nicole Normandeau, Lauren Reynolds, Kim Siwak, and Monica Wiebe