One of our nation’s greatest challenges is to improve the literacy of our youth and adults. We need to do this not just for the good of the “new economy,” to fight crime, and reduce poverty, but, most importantly, to improve the lives of young people who do not read well.

Young people who face significant reading challenges are less likely to finish high school and are at risk of other personal and social problems. Research shows that comprehensive and holistic approaches to teaching and guidance can be effective in helping these young people succeed in school and in life.

With major funding from the HRSDC Literacy Secretariat and Crime Prevention Centre, in partnership with School District 36 (Surrey, BC), Literacy BC facilitated and researched the development of a comprehensive intervention that proved highly successful. Not only did students return to and remain in school, their reading levels increased significantly and their ability to succeed in school and in life improved markedly. After the three-year study period, School District 36 core-funded the program. A report on the research and demonstration project and its promising practices is available for download.

Although the study focused on youth aged 16 to 18, the problem of low-literacy levels and at-risk behaviours among young adults extends well beyond their adolescent years. The lessons learned and strategies developed are relevant to adult education providers and social service agencies working with young adults who have limited literacy skills and continue to be at-risk.

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