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Issue #52
March, 2014

Language and Literacy Development Encyclopedia: Reading Acquisition in Young Aboriginal Children

Source: Patrick D. Walton, Ph.D. and Gloria Ramirez, Ph.D., School of Education, Thompson Rivers University
Focus: Language Teachers and Researchers

Summary: Aboriginal (First Nations, Métis and Inuit) education has a long and tumultuous history in Canada, stemming from decades of colonialism and residential schooling. Residential schooling policies included mandatory graduation ages and were intended to destroy Aboriginal culture and languages. This resulted in widespread social and psychological upheaval in Aboriginal communities (Battiste, 2000). Children, placed in residential schools from the age of 5, were forbidden to speak their Aboriginal language and were required to speak English only and to stop communicating with their siblings (Battiste, 2005). Residential schooling resulted in many Aboriginal parents not seeing value in providing print-based materials in the home and feeling intimidated by schools and teachers (Ball, Bernhardt, & Deby, 2006). In 2003, the BC Ministry of Education (reported in Bell et al., 2004) found that between 40% and 50% of Aboriginal students failed to meet the requirements of literacy tests conducted in Grades 4, 7, and 10. Not surprisingly, school success is more closely linked to competence in one of Canada’s official languages (English or French) than to proficiency in an Aboriginal language. Schools have only recently begun to respond to Aboriginal communities and reflect Aboriginal culture in the curricula and teaching methods (McDonald, 2012). Teaching Aboriginal children to read in English has implications that go beyond the cognitive processes of acquiring meaning from text, as there are extensive cultural differences between Aboriginal peoples and the predominant population of Canada (Walton, Canaday, & Dixon, 2010).

Some key educational goals recently identified by several Aboriginal communities, which are especially relevant to reading acquisition, are knowledge of Aboriginal culture, particularly Aboriginal language, and high levels of competence in reading in English and mathematics (More, 1984; Napoleon, 1988; School District No. 73, 2010). The Aboriginal communities want their children to know their own culture, speak an Aboriginal language, and also learn the required skills to succeed in the non-Aboriginal world.

Buried Voices: Media Coverage of Aboriginal Issues in Ontario: Media Monitoring Report: 2010 – 2013

Source: Journalists for Human Rights.  Robin Pierro – Lead Writer
Focus: Senior Students

Summary: Journalists for Human Rights (JHR), Canada’s leading media development organization, conducted a quantitative analysis of media coverage in Ontario of Aboriginal people, culture and issues between June 1st, 2010 and May 31st, 2013. This study examines the trends, news spikes, and tone of media coverage focused on Aboriginal people during the examination time period.

Reviewing the results of this study, several experts, academics and journalists in the area of Aboriginal media and issues in Canada provided analysis of the findings. JHR offers final conclusions and recommendations following these expert analyses.

In June 2013, JHR launched its first media development program in Canada, the Northern Ontario Initiative. The program focuses on improving non-Aboriginal Canadians’ understanding of Aboriginal issues and creating job opportunities for Aboriginal people in media.

JHR began developing the program in 2011, in consultation with Aboriginal community partners in Northern Ontario. The Northern Ontario Initiative trains Aboriginal people in reserve communities and the city of Thunder Bay, Ontario, to produce quality journalism and sell it to mainstream and Aboriginal media outlets. The program also trains non-Aboriginal journalists in Thunder Bay to cover Aboriginal issues with greater context and sensitivity. JHR is planning to expand the program to other provinces.

Australian Early Development Index

Source: The Australian Government and State and Territory Governments working in partnership with The Royal Children’s Hospital Centre for Community Child Health in Melbourne, the Murdoch Children’s Research Institute, and the Telethon Institute for Child Health and Research, Perth.

Focus: Early Childhood educators 

Summary: Life success, health and emotional wellbeing all have their roots in early childhood. The AEDI can support early childhood educators in long day care, family day care, preschool and kindergarten to play their crucial role in shaping children’s development.

The AEDI is a nationwide measure that looks at how well children are developing. The results provide a snapshot of children’s development at the time they start formal full-time school and span community, state/territory and national levels. The AEDI was first undertaken in 2009 and was completed again in 2012, providing the first Australian snapshot of young children’s development over time.

The AEDI measures five areas or ‘domains’ of early childhood development. These domains are closely linked to the predictors of good adult health, education and social outcomes.  The AEDI domains are:

  • physical health and wellbeing
  • social competence
  • emotional maturity
  • language and cognitive skills (school-based)
  • communication skills and general knowledge.

Using the AEDI will help you understand your community’s AEDI results and then use the results to engage your community and plan actions to better support local children and their families.

Kekina’muel (learning about the Mi’kmaq of Nova Scotia)

Source: Human Resources and Social Development Canada
Focus: Secondary Students

Summary: There is so much to say and so many stories to tell about the Mi’kmaq of Nova Scotia. The purpose of this manual embodies the hope to instill an interest that will leave the reader wanting to explore the story of the Mi’kmaq a little further.

It is a story of a people who have survived challenges and hardships and managed to maintain pride in their history and strong cultural values. It is a testament to the numerous contributions the Mi’kmaq has made to support and enhance the cultural mosaic we now call Nova Scotia.

The Mi’kmaq have always been here, are here today, and will continue to be here for millennia to come, sharing their stories and experiences. The title “Kekina’muek” is a Mi’kmaw word for “study” or “learn.”

This manual is comprised of ten chapters, each formatted in a similar manner. Each chapter begins with a statement of the theme or key message followed by a brief text. Several resources/references are available to reinforce and elaborate on the content.  Activities are also included for further discussion to inspire interpretation, interaction and sometimes debate in the classroom.

As vocabulary is one of the cornerstones of literacy, several words are underlined in each chapter that are defined in a glossary at the end of the manual. Readers are expected to familiarize themselves with the words and use them in the discussion groups and learning activities. A bibliography of resources and references used to compile this publication is also included that will lead interested readers to learn more about the Mi’kmaq.

Ensuring First Nation, Métis and Inuit Success: Leading Through Governance

Source: Alberta School Boards Association
Focus: Educators and Administrators

Summary: The Alberta School Boards Association (ASBA), along with the Government of Alberta and Aboriginal communities, has placed priority attention on addressing the achievement gap of Alberta’s First Nations, Métis and Inuit (Aboriginal) learners. Alberta’s school boards play a vital role in achieving the vision of the Alberta government with regard to the education of Aboriginal children.

This report examines some of the key issues surrounding the education of Aboriginal students and proposes an evidence-based governance framework that school boards can use to improve student results. In this, the framework attempts to capture good governance practices generally while the related strategies apply these governance practices to the education of Aboriginal students.

Alberta’s Aboriginal population (2006 census) is 250,000, an increase of 23% in five years (2001-2006). Aboriginal peoples represent about 7.5% of the total Alberta population. The Aboriginal population in Alberta is growing significantly faster than the non-Aboriginal population. Approximately one Aboriginal child in five currently attends on-reserve schools; four in five attend off-reserve schools.

An examination of the achievement gap that exists between Aboriginal and non-Aboriginal learners underscores the need for strong affirmative action on the part of school boards. While younger Aboriginals are seeking more education than previous generations, they have not kept pace with the increase in education among other Canadians. The magnitude of the education gap, in the view of some, is prohibiting Aboriginals from exercising a realistic choice between leading a traditional lifestyle and a lifestyle integrated with other Canadians.

An understanding of key historical and socio-economic factors negatively affecting Aboriginal student success helps set the stage for the important work of school boards relative to addressing student achievement. These include the troubled history of residential schools and socio-economic factors such as poverty, social conditions and housing.

Measures of language outcomes using the Aboriginal Children’s Survey

Source: Statistics Canada. Leanne C. Findlay and Dafna E. Kohen
Focus: Early Childhood

Summary: One of the most prevalent forms of developmental delay among Aboriginal children pertains to language, with speech-language difficulties being reported by parents of up to 10% of Aboriginal children. Speech-language deficits and delays account for the largest percentage of diagnoses of special needs.

Language develops rapidly from infancy through the preschool years. The period from 0 to 60 months is the most sensitive for language development and the most opportune to promote language learning and intervene to remedy difficulties. Early interventions have higher returns than later interventions. Even before children enter school, weak language skills are associated with behaviour and attention problems, poorer school readiness, and poorer cognitive performance, literacy and educational achievement. In addition, early language development is important for social inclusion and cultural identity.

Knowledge about Aboriginal children’s language development is limited. Until recently, Aboriginal children have not been purposively sampled in national longitudinal cohort studies of Canadian children (for instance, the “National Longitudinal Survey of Children and Youth” and “Understanding the Early Years”).

Monitoring, screening and diagnostic tools have been developed and standardized on a general population of Canadian children, most of whom have English or French as their first language. These tools do not account for cultural differences in speech patterns or the use of non-standard English/French, and are often administered by people unfamiliar with Aboriginal sociolinguistic practices or cultural differences. As a result, Aboriginal children’s linguistic skills may be underestimated.

The goal of the current study was to describe how items collected from parents/guardians for a nationally representative sample of Aboriginal children (off reserve) as part of the 2006 Aboriginal Children’s Survey (ACS) could be used as language indicators.  Because this study concerns language development generally, outcomes in any dialect or language, rather than in a specific Aboriginal language, are examined.

Bringing Métis Children’s Literature to Life: Teacher Guidebook for GDI Publications

Source: The Virtual Museum of Métis History and Culture – Gabriel Dumont Institute of Native Studies and Applied Research
Focus: Elementary students

Summary: Bringing Métis Children’s Literature to Life is a guidebook for teachers to support the children’s literature published by Gabriel Dumont Institute (GDI). Not only will teachers be able to teach about the Métis but they will also utilize strategies that foster and promote literacy development (listening, speaking, reading, writing, viewing, and representing).

The stories used in this guidebook are written and illustrated by Métis authors and illustrators. Each story brings traditional and contemporary Métis culture to life. They honour the past and present. Métis children often see themselves in these publications. Non-Métis students will see and connect with the universal themes and relate them to their own lives while learning about Métis culture. Most importantly, this resource is about engaging readers in the history and traditions of Métis culture through literature.

Métis children’s literature is found in classrooms and in school libraries and public libraries all across Canada. Teachers use the books in various ways to bring awareness of the culture and teach outcomes. However, teachers are not always an “insider” in the culture, and often search for ideas on how to incorporate Métis content into their practice. There is a desire by teachers to be more inclusive, but they may not know how. This resource assists teachers in being culturally responsive while at the same time allowing them to teach provincial outcomes.

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