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Early Screening for Reading Problems Helps Children in School and Later Life

The Executive Director of Dyslexia Canada, Alicia Smith, is applauding the BC government for introducing a screening program to identify children with learning difficulties in kindergarten to grade 3. 

Smith says universal screening is a significant step forward in ensuring every child receives the support they need to thrive. 

She says a lack of reading skills creates a challenge because so much learning in school is “done through reading and writing,” so both skills are very important. 

“When kids get off to a poor start with learning to read it really impacts their entire life trajectory in terms of their confidence and how they feel about themselves, but also how successful they’re likely to be in school academically in other subjects.” 

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She says falling behind in class can result in low self-esteem and lead to serious mental health issues like anxiety and depression. She says many kids express their frustration through bad behavior or may shut down entirely. 

She also says it affects high school graduation rates and reduces opportunities to participate in post-secondary education, so understanding what additional supports are needed is important. 

Smith says an early diagnosis of dyslexia or other learning disabilities goes a long way to helping children avoid problems later in life. 

She says a study done for the Association of Chiefs of Police found that not only are people with low literacy far more likely to be incarcerated for crimes but are far more likely to become the victims of crime. 

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Smith also says a higher literacy level among adults provides an overall boost to the country’s economic health. 

She notes a study done by Deloitte for the Canadian Children’s Literacy Foundation found that a one per cent increase in adult literacy would create an economic benefit of $67 billion in gross domestic product for Canada per year. 

Smith says screening and early intervention can prevent reading difficulties for over 95 per cent of all children, including those with dyslexia. 

She says these programs are gaining traction across Canada with universal screening introduced in Ontario, Alberta, New Brunswick, and Nova Scotia looking at doing so. 

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Over the next three years, $30 million is budgeted for several provincial outreach programs and teams, and support for literacy-focused development and training for teachers and support staff. 

The goal is to implement evidence-based early literacy screening for all students in kindergarten to Grade 3 to provide support when additional help is needed. 

The BC government says early literacy screening intervention and outreach support for schools will begin to roll out in the 2024-25 school year. 

According to Smith, this will mean about 62 per cent of Canadian children will live in provinces committed to implementing universal screening. 

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