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Lessons Learned: Literacy School


It’s family literacy week in Canada. At Halifax Learning we’ve worked for over a decade to promote and celebrate literacy in Nova Scotia, so a week dedicated to the magic of books and storytelling is dear to us.

But what can we say about literacy that isn’t already being shouted from the rooftops of every library from here to Tofino? Everyone agrees it’s important. Led by Myra Freeman’s education review panel, recent reports and a simmering exchange of opinions in the media have kept early literacy skills front and center.

Sometimes we get impatient when progress is slow because we believe creating sustainable change across the province should be a priority. It’s during these moments we start daydreaming, envisioning grandiose solutions that change the world overnight.

A school dedicated to higher literacy is one of those pipe dreams. It was inspired by Proof School, a school in San Francisco dedicated to building passion for math. Students are grouped by ability rather than age as they move through the school’s curriculum, studying math for 2.5-3 hours daily. The rest of the time is spent in traditional grade-level classes. Proof School exists to give precocious students access to high-level math instruction they can’t receive anywhere else, sowing the seeds for the next generation of mathematicians and programmers.

Proof School Event |San Francisco Bay Area Freelance Photographer | Drew Bird Photography

It is a bold initiative, but something so specialized is risky. It got me thinking – what would a school dedicated to literacy look like? Everyone would receive linguistic foundations instruction but providing an outlet to foster each student’s passion would be key. Critical reading, creative writing, journaling, media, publishing, and performance could all be course options. Political science and law could be oratory classes. Philosophy too. Maybe a language arts school would be better, creating a multilingual community with highly developed communication skills. And students could use their talents within the community, enhancing passion for literacy outside of the school’s walls.

It sounds exciting, but we’re pragmatic people here at Halifax Learning – we know that a paradigm shift in early literacy can’t happen immediately. It needs the support of every level of education. Teachers need to lead this movement because they’re the ones running classrooms. Here’s an article discussing why this is important.

And teachers can’t do it alone. Community needs are so complex these days that a single approach to education is woefully inadequate. It’s one thing to attain a base standard of education for every child, but an entirely different proposition altogether to foster a generation of visionaries and innovators who can lead our province into the future.


Now Lunenburg County is an initiative that’s encouraging local solutions to local problems. While it isn’t focused on public education, it is building cross-sector relationships that include students, businesses, politicians and other community stakeholders. This type of collaboration (ambitious goals based on diverse local input) will be central to pushing the education reform agenda along.

And this article by Schoolhouse Consulting’s Paul Bennett discusses the gap that exists between the Nova Scotia Teacher’s Union and some of its teachers (see hearld article here) . It’s a complex issue that can’t be solved overnight.

While a school devoted to reading may be farfetched, Halifax Learning is committed to early literacy intervention. Over a decade of research proves how effective SpellRead is, and the 3,000 students we’ve helped become confident readers attests to our expertise.

Everybody should be able to enjoy Family Literacy Day. We hope you do.

Halifax Learning Team!

Written by Max Gordon from Halifax Learning. With various locations in the city, Halifax Learning Centre offers many different programs to suit everybody’s needs – it’s more than just tutoring! For more information on programs like SpellRead, Momentum Math, French and more visit their website

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