VICTORIA – They say reading is as easy as A, B, C, but some children continue to struggle with a skill that is vital to a healthy, successful future – and a new partnership will help improve early literacy skills in rural and remote communities.

A $200,000 literacy initiative and research partnership with Vancouver Island University and 11 public schools in the province will look at early literacy skills in some rural and remote communities with significant Aboriginal student populations, and identify the supports and interventions needed so they can achieve better outcomes.

The new partnership reflects B.C.’s Education Plan, which recognizes the value of literacy and early intervention, the importance of supporting struggling readers, and how vital it is to work with Aboriginal communities and school districts to focus on the needs of Aboriginal students.

A U.S. study of 4,000 students found that those who do not read proficiently by the third grade are four times more likely to leave school without a diploma than proficient readers.

Under the new partnership, school teams will include literacy experts and student teachers who will work directly with educators and students. Kindergarten to Grade 7 students will be the primary focus with the goal of finding ways to develop literacy practices and strategies that are culturally relevant and family-centred. Bringing student teachers into these schools will also have a positive impact on rural and remote teacher recruitment, which can be challenging for rural and remote B.C. communities.

The goal of this collaborative initiative is to positively impact literacy levels among young learners and thereby increase academic achievement.

This project builds on the work of 52 Aboriginal Education Enhancement Agreements that have been signed throughout the province, signifying a commitment of education partners to work together to improve the success and outcomes of Aboriginal students while creating a better understanding amongst students and staff of Aboriginal peoples in B.C.