Improving literacy for success

London, ON, Canada / 106.9 The X
Improving literacy for success

Photo: Brooke Foster

What makes a child successful? It could have something to do with how you speak to them.

In 1995 two reasearchers did a study that said children who were exposed to more words an hour were more likely to be successful later on in life compared to other children.

Jump forward to today when a campaign called 2000 Words to Grow – based on that study – is striving to help families understand the importance of literacy.

The campaign says that parents should aim to use 2000 words each hour with their children. They have some suggestions on how you can make that number possible:

  • Reading a book and having a discussion
  • Singing songs
  • Playing car games like I Spy

Literacy in Families

Glen Pearson is a big player in London’s community. He used to work as an MP for London North Centre and currently Co-Directs the Food Back. Being an advocate for literacy, he wrote a guest blog for This Is Literacy, one of the organizations behind 2000 Words to Grow.

In the blog post he talks about two of his children. Pearson and his wife have adopted two children from Darfur, Sudan.

“They’ve never been to school. They didn’t speak English; they spoke Arabic. When they came here we had a real issues around communication. The internal things they were feeling was the issue – how to pull those things out of them and try to communicate on that deeper level to see if we can help them process through that it was going to take words.”

Because neither of these boys spoke English, the Pearson’s faced many challenges.

“Our real difficulty even though our kids were 8 and 11, they were actually adults when they came. They had been in slavery, they had been present when their mother was shot, they were in a country where civil war was going on. When they came to us, they actually had a kind of maturity about life that should not have been in children at such a young age.”

Pearson also knows that words can be a powerful tool. Especially in families.

“There’s an emotional security placed around them through school but at the end of the day it’s words. They use it on a daily basis through text, Facebook, friends, talking with us. Words have empowered them. It’s their words, when it was their time to speak about the emotions that they felt and it’s empowered us as parents.”

It was so important for the Pearson family to navigate the language barrier and try to bring a childhood back to the boys.

Literacy at Work

Cassie is a developmental service worker who works with people struggling with various different disabilities. She uses literacy in a number of ways.

“We speak to the students a lot even if they’re non-verbal. We still talk to them all the time and promote word recognition. Even though they can’t communicate to us, it’s important to speak to people who are non-verbal so they have a better understanding of what’s going.”

From the family to the workplace, Cassie says words bring us together and help us express ourselves and better ourselves.

“As I was growing up I remember always getting read stories before bed. That was also a big thing with the kids I baby-sat when I was younger. They loved hearing the stories that I read to them.”

Just like it says in its name, 2000 words to grow is an idea to encourage growth through the use of words. Taking time to talk with your family and even your friends can have an impact on the quality of your life.

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