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Celebrating 20 Years of Evidence-Based Education and SpellRead

Meet our Community Engagement Director:  Shakisha Downey

By Halifax Learning on Thu, Mar 24, 2022 @ 10:01 AM

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Shakisha Downey's role has evolved at Halifax Learning. Shakisha has been an integral part of our team since 2017 and now takes on the role of Community Engagement Director. Let's get to know Shakisha (she/her).

Graduating from Dalhousie University with a Bachelor's degree in Sociology and Social Anthropology, she is now studying for her Bachelor of Social Work with the goal of completing her Masters in Social Work. Shakisha's pursuit of education in this field of social work was spurred on by her personal experience as a former child in care. This educational opportunity has been a professional and personal development experience for her.


She came on board with us to work with families on financing and delivering science-based programming in our in-person and online clinics and in Halifax Regional Centre for Education schools and community centres. She was attracted to Halifax Learning because of their understanding of illiteracy as a social justice issue. Growing up, education was her anchor in a life of many uncertainties, something she could always be proud to be a part of. Shakisha strongly believes literacy can change the path taken by anyone in life, especially for those who have been marginalized or denied access to opportunities. For her, literacy and knowledge are power, and she wanted to be a part of empowering younger generations.

As the Community Engagement Director for Halifax Learning, she works on creating, organizing, and maintaining community-based literacy programs, workshops, and opportunities in Halifax Regional Municipality with the overall theme of Affirmative Action and advancing social justice for marginalized individuals and communities.

Shakisha finds her work with Halifax Learning to be rewarding for the opportunity she has to be a part of creating and maintaining transformative learning journeys for children and youth who have experienced trauma and/or marginalization.

Her favourite reading material includes books that tell real-life stories about additions, abuse, and other personal struggles. It all started for her with "Go ask Alice, Anonymous" and a number of books by Ellen Hopkins she read in Junior High.

What does she do for fun? She loves to take long drives along the coast to admire the adored ocean views of Nova Scotia. Some of her favourite places to visit are the Cape Breton Highlands and Scots Bay. She also loves to take her  Lab-Mastiff out for a good long walk and swim. In fact, what she loves about living in Atlantic Canada is the ocean! In her words, "I'm a sucker for saltwater and rocky or sandy beaches".  

As a favourite 'pump up' song, what will you hear her listening to? Well, anything Justin Bieber and her current song of the moment is "Attention" by Omah.  But this could change any minute!

Make sure to reach out to Shakisha for assistance with funding, scholarships, for working with HLC and much more!

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Waiting for a Psycho-educational Assessment?

By Halifax Learning on Wed, Nov 24, 2021 @ 06:47 PM

Students with learning disabilities, attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), autism spectrum disorder, social or emotional difficulties, or any other learning challenge can significantly benefit from having a psychoeducational assessment performed. They offer valuable direction for a child's future development and needed support. In fact, an assessment can be an excellent investment even when you don't suspect a learning disability, as it can evaluate a child's difficulty comprehending assignments or completing work accurately or on time.

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Unfortunately, the wait time for a psychoeducational assessment inside the Canadian school system can be long, sometimes two years or more. Sadly wait times have increased due to Covid-19 school closures.  Assessments are also available through private sources but often cost thousands of dollars, which makes them a nonviable option for many.

The good news is that Halifax Learning’s free reading assessment, while not a replacement for a full psychoeducational assessment, can expertly and accurately highlight where students need support now. That makes it a good option while you wait for a more comprehensive evaluation. 

What Is a Psychoeducational Assessment?

For students who need to access additional or customized learning support, a psychoeducational assessment is a must. It identifies learning challenges in students of all ages, from young children to adults, and provides a deeper understanding of their educational abilities. It also helps diagnose the root cause of a student’s academic or behavioural challenges, signs of which can include:

  • Low report card grades
  • Difficulty focusing during class
  • Disruptive behaviour in the classroom
  • Feeling anxious or overwhelmed during tests
  • Not performing at full potential academically

The assessment process involves interviews, document reviews, formal testing, and completion of rating scales and questionnaires. The resulting report provides recommendations for special services and resources in both the home and school environments. 

Sometimes parents are worried an assessment will find something is “wrong” with their child. But people with reading and other learning challenges are often quite intelligent. They just don’t process learning the same way other students do. Identifying a child’s unique style and determining their cognitive strengths and weaknesses is an important first step in getting them the necessary support to improve their academic performance; it can even increase their enjoyment of school! 

How Halifax Learning assesses a student’s needs

Halifax Learning’s free, one-hour online and in-person assessments measure a student’s phonological and phonetic skills, reading fluency, word recognition, comprehension, and writing and spelling skills. They provide a clear and comprehensive understanding of a student’s strengths and weaknesses and give us a picture of the way the student is reading. 

Halifax Learning believes  all children can learn to read and read well. Our fully integrated approach uses language-based reading and writing activities to help students, particularly those who struggle with reading, improve their reading skills. 

To learn more about our story and how we can help support your child’s learning needs, reach out to us or book an in-person or online reading assessment today.

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Understanding The Science of Reading

By Halifax Learning on Thu, Nov 04, 2021 @ 08:00 AM

Halifax Learning embraces the Science of Reading. It’s a term often used when discussing remedial reading programs, but many parents we talk to aren’t entirely clear on what it means. 

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We know that being a proficient reader has a huge impact on a child’s entire education. In this post, we want to talk about what the science of reading is and how it enables students to succeed not only in reading but in all areas of learning.

What is The Science of Reading?

As the name implies, the science of reading is based on methods and statistical analyses drawn from the work of experts in education, special education, psychology, neurology, literacy, and more. Over 20 years in the making, their evidence-based body of knowledge has helped uncover the deficiencies in traditional observation-based methods. 

The conclusive research of the science of reading gives educators the information they need to gain a deeper understanding of how children learn to read, what skills are involved, and which parts of the brain are responsible for reading development. From the research, experts have been able to develop a best practices approach for teaching foundational literacy skills often called “structured literacy.”

By helping educators understand the cognitive processes essential for reading proficiency, the science of reading helps prevent many reading difficulties in young students who are most at-risk. And studies have shown that for students in higher grades, intensive phonemic awareness and decoding training coupled with opportunities for repeated practice with reading controlled text has been highly effective. 

How Science of Reading Differs From Traditional Reading Instruction

Conventional reading instruction emphasizes whole world memorization, which can impede a student’s progress. Phonics empowers students by increasing their reading power. Here’s how it works.

Reading development can be divided into three stages: letters and sounds, phonic decoding, and orthographic or spelling mapping. When a child memorizes 10 words, they generally can read those 10 words well. However, if the child learns the sounds of 10 letters, they can read:

  • 350 three-sound words
  • Over 4,300 four-sound words
  • 21,650 five-sound words

As learning to read is a complex neurological process, it only makes sense to use evidence-based methods to support all readers.

Are Phonics and Science of Reading the Same Thing?

The science shows that systematic, explicit phonics instruction is the foundation for successful reading. Yet while phonics, which is about decoding words, is a critical component in early reading education, other techniques are used by educators to keep students focused and energized as they master challenging skills. The science of reading also:

  • Incorporates connecting phonics to spelling instruction.
  • Recognizes the importance of language and reading comprehension.
  • Focuses on building vocabulary and background knowledge.
  • Helps students develop comprehension skills.

So, while phonics is certainly an essential element in the science of reading, it’s not the whole thing, in fact, ​​ efficient reading instruction includes: phonemic awareness, phonics, vocabulary development, reading fluency, and reading comprehension - all working together.

How Halifax Learning Can Help

Halifax Learning is committed to transforming students’ lives through the power of reading. Halifax Learning's delivery of the SpellRead Program is a fully integrated approach based on specific skill mastery that uses language-based reading and writing activities to help children, particularly those who struggle with reading, improve their reading skills.

To learn more about the science of reading and how Halifax Learning can help support your child’s learning needs, reach out to us today.

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Why Parents Love Halifax Learning's Assessments

By Halifax Learning on Wed, Oct 27, 2021 @ 11:21 AM

If your child struggles to perform as expected in school, you may have been advised to have them take part in a psychoeducational assessment. These assessments can be invaluable in both identifying areas of need and helping your child understand their strengths so they can apply them in the classroom and daily life.

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A psychoeducational assessment involves an in-depth interview with the parents, your child, and teachers as well as personal observation and multiple standardized assessments. One downside to the assessments in the Canadian school system is that it can take two or more years to obtain one. To get one sooner, you’ll need to pay a private psychologist or agency.

Halifax Learning’s Reading Assessment

Fortunately, there is another option available while you wait for the more comprehensive psychoeducational assessment.

Halifax Learning’s free, one-hour online and in-person reading assessments are accurate, reliable tools that help measure your child’s phonological and phonetic skills, reading fluency, word recognition, comprehension, and writing and spelling skills. They can be highly beneficial for students with learning disabilities or other social or emotional challenges.

Parents who have their child assessed through our program come to us for a variety of reasons:

  • Their child’s school has pointed out areas of concern, including low literacy skills.
  • The parents themselves have noticed their child is behind academically.
  • The student has been diagnosed with or suspected to have a learning disability or ADHD.
  • The "the Covid Slide" has caused a student to fall behind their peers.
  • They were referred by the school, an educator, or another professional such as a psychologist or speech therapist.

For more than 20 years, we’ve delivered the best evidence-based reading support program for thousands of Halifax students and would love to do the same for your child.

How Our Reading Assessment Works

Available in-person or online, our professional reading assessments are free of charge, quick and comprehensive, and for all ages. They take approximately 30 to 45 minutes to complete. Once concluded, we can meet with you to review the results and provide you with a copy of your child’s assessment and any other resources necessary to meet their goals. The results of this initial evaluation are then used as a benchmark for the student’s midpoint progress and exit assessments.

The assessment itself measures phonological and phonetic skills, reading fluency and comprehension, word recognition, and spelling and writing skills. It provides us with an understanding of your child’s strengths and weaknesses, so we have a clear view of the way they’re reading. We can then introduce specific strategies and techniques that can dramatically improve reading ability and comprehension, often within one year. Best of all, your child gains reading comprehension and fluency skills they can use for a lifetime.

Progress Reports

Once your child is enrolled in our program, their progress is tracked weekly so you can request a check-in at any point. Two additional assessments are performed during the program, one halfway through and the other at its conclusion. These assessments give us a clear picture of your child’s progress and let you see how well your child is advancing, where they’re excelling, and which areas might still need improvement.

At Halifax Learning, we believe every child should have the opportunity to achieve their highest potential. Our fully integrated approach to improving reading skills uses language-based reading and writing activities that help students, particularly those who struggle with reading, develop into strong, confident readers. To book an in-person or online reading assessment or to learn more about how our program can support your child’s learning needs, reach out to us today.

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The Covid Learning Slide: A Year Later

By Halifax Learning on Tue, Oct 19, 2021 @ 06:24 AM

Educators have long dealt with the “summer slide,” the loss of learning that takes place while students are on summer break. Today, a new phrase, “the COVID slide,” presents a whole range of novel educational challenges.

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When we first wrote about this phenomenon in September 2020, we talked about how the COVID slide turned the school system upside down, disrupting millions of children, families, and teachers. Sadly, a year later, the slide has continued, with experts calling the education disruption a “shadow pandemic” that’s widening learning gaps and causing Canadian students, particularly those at-risk, to fall behind their global peers.

While many educators are eager to emphasize their students remain motivated and are on target with their schoolwork, they also acknowledge a concern about students not keeping up academically. They especially worry about students who have underlying learning challenges or lack appropriate resources to keep pace.

Fortunately, there are things parents can do to help their children who might be experiencing COVID slide, including investing in online instruction such as Halifax Learning’s SpellRead Program.

Shrinking Learning Gaps to Minimize Disruption

Many experts agree addressing learning gaps now can go a long way in keeping students’ education journeys on track. Student well-being, home-school resources, and consistent evaluation and assessment, they say, can help at-risk students by providing flexible approaches to the delivery of learning.

These same experts also see the current crisis as offering an opportunity to improve educational pathways for learners and build resilience for all students. They believe educators can alleviate student learning loss that many say will last through the end of 2021’s school year by putting three crucial initiatives in place:

  1. Acting now to reduce learning gaps and commit for the long term.
  2. Embracing holistic and flexible interventions that enhance the multiple worlds of individual students, including resources that enable the use of a variety of delivery methods.
  3. Rethinking and embedding evaluation and assessment components to maximize impact.

Including students and parents in the design and delivery of learning interventions is an especially useful way of achieving these goals. Programs like SpellRead can accelerate learning and ensure a student receives the ongoing support and assessments they need to thrive and meet their full potential.

How Parents Can Help Students Experiencing COVID Slide

Before they can help their child cope with the pandemic’s effects on their studies, parents must recognize how their child is doing. Has the child lost interest in subjects they once thrived at? Are they using the phrase “I hate reading” more often? These might be the sign of academic struggle. At-home reading lessons that include activities in phonemic, phonetic, and language-based reading and writing can ensure a child’s skills in these areas remain current with their grade level while keeping them engaged in overall learning.

A University of Alberta study confirms that students who were already struggling with reading are falling even further behind in their reading skills due to the COVID slide. Halifax Learning is committed to helping educators, students, and their families, turn the situation around. To learn more about the COVID slide and how our program can help your child strengthen their reading skills, reach out to us today.

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Report Card Time in a Pandemic

By Melinda Cameron on Thu, Nov 26, 2020 @ 09:08 AM

This is a special time of year for many students and teachers - report card time! This year’s report card time is different from any other, because school has been much different for most kids. Whether students are now studying virtually at home or in school, there are likely gaps in most students’ education. Last school year at least a third of the scheduled in-person class time was missed for most students. For some students, this was a pivotal moment in their education to miss out on; as Dr. Heidi Beverine-Curry points out, kids at this sensitive stage (now in Grade 1) have missed key points in their journey to learning to read. 

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Keeping in mind this missed class time, should teachers and administrators should change their expectations for student progress? According to reading expert
Timothy Shanahan, students’ future employers and educators will not lower their expectations, so we shouldn’t either. 

If your child’s report card is coming home soon, how can you best use your conversation with your child’s teacher? 

  • Keep your expectations in check, because it has been an unusual year. 
  • Get a clear idea of your child’s skills.
  • Understand how to help them get to where they need to be, educationally. 

We should expect our kids to keep learning even when times are hard; one really important way we can do so is to make sure their reading skills are strong. When kids can read well independently, they can learn about anything in the world. Families who invest time now making sure their kids can read independently are giving them a skill that no one can take away, and that will continue to help them learn as they grow.

There absolutely should be a sense of urgency in making sure students are getting the education they need, and it’s more important than ever that kids learn to read the right way. Halifax Learning can help - we can assess your child’s current reading skills quickly and easily online, and our online SpellRead classes are a safe and reliable way for students to strengthen their reading skills.

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How Parents Can Help Kids Learn Online

By Melinda Cameron on Thu, May 14, 2020 @ 06:15 PM

At Halifax Learning, parents have always been a big part of their child's reading success. These days, it's more important than ever. But how can parents provide the best support on their child's reading journey, as they learn to read online with SpellRead?

1. Be present...

Kids usually need older family members around to start the Zoom or video chat meetings and to make sure the microphone and camera are working correctly. There can also be times when it's good to be around to troubleshoot any issues that come up, like if kids accidentally click the wrong part of the screen or if there's a problem with wifi.

2. ...but not TOO present.

Classes are designed for kids to do successfully with their class and instructor, so parents don't need to be around to give hints about the answers or do the activities! Any support that's needed will be provided by the instructor.

3. Have materials at the ready.

Each online class goes by quickly, so the better prepared kids are, the more work that gets done. Some families set an alarm for 10 minutes before each class - that way, they can be logged in and ready to go when the class starts. Better yet, set an alarm for 30 minutes before each class, giving kids time to have a quick snack and drink if needed and to use the washroom.

Supplies kids will usually need to have include:

  • Pencils and a notebook or scribbler
  • Sound cards
  • Speed packs

4. Be positive!

Make your home a safe place to make mistakes. Not every answer will be correct the first try - if it was, what are we even doing here? Encourage kids by noticing when they're working hard. 

For more information, please visit our website www.halifaxlearning.com

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Happy Feat

By Britt P. Curran on Sun, Nov 17, 2019 @ 10:51 PM

photo-1532012197267-da84d127e765-1Starting anything new—school, a sport, saxophone—can feel equally exciting and intimidating. A first day is typically part introductory, part investigative, and our often natural response is to proceed with curiosity and caution.

Before SpellRead students begin, some steps are already complete: an initial assessment, a report of results, chatting with parents or guardians, and setting up a schedule. But it's the ins and outs of sessions and how the program works that best illustrate a learner's potential growth.

Halifax Learning instructors place emphasis on effort, not perfection. We want each individual to try, even if that means spelling words incorrectly, requiring several prompts during reading, or asking questions to recall story details. Errors allow learners to develop, recognize personal strengths, and focus on what needs work.

For more than 20 years, SpellRead teachers have helped students navigate the highly-structured, heavily-researched program. As classes unfold, the snowball effect of understanding, applying, and approaching literacy with greater ease and enthusiasm is common. When learners feels capable in their printing, pace, and practice, confidence comes. Below are just four examples of past and present success in action.

Nearly six years ago, a then seven-year-old boy began the program struggling to recognize the letters and sounds in his own name, but his dedication to trying gave small victories real impact. After nearly a year of attendance, he came across a long word during class and proceeded to analyze without so much as a pause: /str/ + /aw/ + /b/ + /_e_/ + /r/ + /r/ + /___y/. He then looked up and said: "STRAWBERRY." The progress was measurable, but his personal pride? Invaluable. He recognized the word—as a beloved flavour of ice cream, or what one might pick during the summerbut never before knew its "pieces." Now, however, he had the tools to tackle a myriad of foreign or confusing words.

Ava also had an "aha!" moment. Earlier this month, her mother shared inspired comments:

She has been reading "The One and Only Ivan" (by K. A. Applegate) A LOT lately. She said it’s her favourite book. I don’t even have to ask her to read because she takes it everywhere... and reads whenever she has time. She has never been that child to carry a book around and read for pleasure.

Ava began SpellRead in Grade 1 and finished the program's first hurdle, Phase A. This year, she returned as a Grade 5 student in Halifax ready to complete Phase B and C. Her mom couldn't be happier:

I definitely feel like things are clicking for Ava [and] I am thrilled!

Two Dartmouth students recently finished 120 hours together with impressive speed-read times, strengthened vowel and consonant recognition, and grade levels above where they started in September, 2018.

One of the duo began frequently overwhelmed with hefty paragraphs and 20-word spelling activities; his reluctance sprang from frustration and confusion. Nearer to his "graduation," he requested longer word lists. He anticipated the writing portion of class. He didn't blink at bigger paragraphs, knowing the instructor could help prompt, correct, or take over if necessary. But he didn't need much of a nudge: with the skills learned—and having just turned eight—he could approach vocabulary words like "between," "sprain," and "twinkly" with precision and minor guidance.

His classmate, another Grade 3 student, completed her registration reading challenging chapter books. From the start, she loved being creative through art and poetry. Her initial homework, however, was a bit challenging to understand; like many students, she often omitted vowels. She has now learned 18 primary and 12 secondary vowel sounds, allowing her writing to be clearer, more legible, and expressive. She's currently share-reading "The Bad Beginning" (the first in Lemony Snicket's "A Series of Unfortunate Events") with her mom, taking turns tackling pages and already anticipates the second installment.

Stories (and even small moments) of success help reinforce why educators do what they do. They teach to see learners thrive, to boost self-esteem, to achieve an academic feat. And to help highlight the notion so poetically articulated by the historical orator, Frederick Douglass:

"Once you learn to read, you will be forever free."

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I Write Because I Read!

By Megan Brooks on Wed, Feb 27, 2019 @ 03:10 PM

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"The fisherman's huts are small but mighty as they conquer the gusty day. The beach will soon be even smoother and more unique than the first time. I will never forget the exceptional visit to the island. But there is still so much more to explore."

Last week at a planning meeting Sarah read our team a piece of writing with no introduction. She simply began. I assumed it was written by our SL-P and published author, Natalie, but I was stunned when she exposed the true author. 

Meet Anna! She's 11 years old and, like most kids, doesn't jump for joy when handed a five paragraph essay assignment from her classroom teacher. In fact, she wrote it in just 20 minutes after procrastinating for days. You can read the rest of Anna's inspired piece of writing below. Anna is a SpellRead graduate, has attended summer camps and will be joining us this summer as a Junior Camp Leader! We're proud to have Anna on our team this year and we look forward to supporting her as she supports our campers! 

Find out more about Camp!

We don't mean to brag, but this kid can write and we know why!

Anna has had the privilege of being immersed in evidence-based instructional methods that develop solid, sustainable literacy skills since day one. Right now, a child participating in a program such as SpellRead is privileged and often a reaction to years of struggle and anguish by their parents.

We think that needs to change so more of our youth can produce inspiring, impassioned pieces of writing such as Anna's essay below. 

Anna is like most kids. She loves spending time with her friends, being active and occasionally complains about school work. But Anna has the fundamental skills she needs to push through the torment of being an pre-teen and can get it done.

Some might say that writing is the last skill, or even the hardest skill to develop amongst these four skills: reading, writing, speaking and listening. Regardless of the complexity of the skill, we know that evidence-based instructional methods provide students with the tools they need and the best opportunity to produce captivating and thought-provoking pieces of writing. 

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I write, because I read.

Michael Chabon, author, credits his writing skills to his love of reading. We know all students can learn to read and one of the many reasons we need them to do so efficiently and effectively is to provide the world with the gift of writers like Anna and Michael Chabon! 

Click here to listen to Michael Chabon describe his love of reading and writing in this CBC podcast, "Michael Chabon on reading, writing and Captain Picard."

There are five core components to inform effective reading instruction and we're proud to say SpellRead was designed with them in mind.

What are the 5 core components in developing reading?

  1. Phonological Awareness
  2. Phonics
  3. Vocabulary Development
  4. Reading Fluency
  5. Reading Comprehension

 Download our free guide, "All Children Reading Well" to learn more.

Anna's Essay

Me and my dad had just unbooked from the outstanding campsite. We were heading to a new place to stay for two nights, it was a motel that looked like fisherman's huts jammed together. Once we got to the motel my eyes wouldn’t close. It was about mid day and the sun was shining bright in the sky. There was so much to look at but the smell was superior. It was like someone had just sprinkled sea salt everywhere for supper! However, the first things that caught my eye were the marvelous looking motels and their colors!

As I bound towards the motel, I thought that what was located in front of me was an enchanted rainbow. I anticipated that I was going to be rich! Underneath my feet was some of the most delicate grass I’ve ever felt and the motel looked honestly like a cartoon right out of the T.V. The other houses around the motel resembled nothing else except some flat dull colors.

As my eyes drifted to another spectacular view, I saw one of the most delightful beaches I’ve ever seen, particularly from all the dunes covering the beach. As I descended down the rickety ladder, I pivoted around and found myself gazing into these miniscule openings in between these monstrously giant boulders. In my opinion, they were more like little somber grotos.

The water was the last thing that my eyes saw as I swung around to look at all of its glory. It was like hopping into a whimsical fairytale world! The overlapping waves invited me for an exciting race to the shore. Although the water was bubbling at the shoreline the rest of the water was quite clear. As I looked down, I saw myself as if looking into a mirror. My sight would keep going down past the water to where the seaglass was getting jammed in between two pieces of coral. I then saw the seaglass escape the coral’s grasp, to be found very soon.

The fisherman's huts are small but mighty as they conquer the gusty day. The beach will soon be even smoother and more unique than the first time. I will never forget the exceptional visit to the island. But there is still so much more to explore.


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Is your child struggling to develop the 4 skills?

Reading, writing, speaking and listening are interconnected and starts with effective instruction. Halifax Learning is recommended by parents, psychologists, teachers, speech-language pathologists and more, but our number one source of referrals come from parents themselves. Why not as a parent that has experienced first hand, the change SpellRead has made in their child's life!
 
Ask a Parent
 

Ready to start?

Contact us today for a free, no-obligation, assessment and consultation.
 
In less than 1 hour you will learn more about how you, or a member of your family, process language and comprehend text. 

Our assessment is not a product of the SpellRead program, but an independent standardized assessment that provides benchmarks for the foundational skills identified in research required for efficient reading. 
You will also receive a digital copy of the report within two business days with no obligation to enroll in our programs. This information can help access school support as well. 
 
Our SpellRead students are assessed three times over the course of a full registration to ensure progress and success!
 

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What does "evidence-based" really mean?

By Halifax Learning on Thu, Nov 15, 2018 @ 11:24 AM

 

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When it comes to evidence-based practices, we sometimes think about doctors - professionals who help patients based on past medical research. No two patients are exactly alike, but doctors know they can rely on the evidence that has been produced over the years to help their patients. Similarly, no two of our students are exactly alike, but we know that we have the right evidence-based program to help them build the skills that they need. That's the power of evidence.

Something is considered "evidence-based practice" if: 

  • there is robust support. 
  • group designed studies and research.
  • a large series of single-case design studies.

Having the privilege to be labeled as "evidence-based" is not a small feat and should carry a lot of weight to an individual or parent that is considering their child's learning needs or their own. Foundational literacy skills should not be left to chance regardless of a child's race, gender, socio-economic status, presence of a learning difference, diagnosis of a neurological disorder and so on.

The list is endless. Intelligent, hard working individuals with huge hearts have worked tirelessly to develop programs that work - particularly in reading. We believe parents today are more and more aware of the impacts that the "Reading Wars" of the 1980s are having on our children today.  

"Reading is the most studied aspect of human learning."
- quote for Emily Handford's documentary, Hard Words: Why aren't our kids being taught to read?

Despite the Marianas Trench of research identifying the 5 core components required for effective reading instruction, our students are still not being taught to read effectively or efficiently. 

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How did SpellRead become an evidence-based reading intervention program?

We at Halifax Learning love to celebrate the origins of the SpellRead program. SpellRead was created by a parent from Prince Edward Island desperately searching for effective reading instruction for her child. She was inspired to help her son, who is deaf, learn to read in a way that works for people of all abilities. One really important piece of her story, that we sometimes don't emphasize as much as we should, is the fact that Kay is a life-long educator and researcher. In creating SpellRead, Dr. MacPhee used research and evidence.

Once Kay had created SpellRead and had taught it successfully, the program was evaluated in various research projects, like in this study on elementary-aged students, and this larger-scale study. SpellRead continues to be evaluated, like in this recent study with students in Halifax's Youth Advocacy Program, and in a current study being done by the NeuroCognitive Imaging Lab at Dalhousie University. These studies consistently demonstrate that SpellRead offers effective, sustainable results. 

Delivering an evidence-based program is important because sometimes there are strategies that seem like they might work, but actually have no benefit or introduce bad habits and compensatory strategies. Our students tell us all the time that they've been taught to guess an unfamiliar word based on a picture, or to skip over the word and then come back to it later.

These strategies might seem sufficient, but they have not been proven and often get in the way of the actual process of learning to read. Anecdotally we find that this type of instruction becomes ineffective for a high number of students around grade 3. As students begin to progress more heavily into reading content without pictures, these compensatory strategies are no longer an option and student's comprehension, productivity and enthusiasm for reading is impacted in a very negative way. 

It's so important that we understand there is science behind reading education, and that it has actually been studied a lot over the years (which makes sense, considering how vital it is to have strong reading skills). Not all methods of reading instruction are equal. Here are 9 questions to ask when evaluating a reading program. We know what works to teach, and we know how to teach it.

How do know if your child is being taught to read the right way? Download our document, "All Children Reading Well" or Contact us today to book a free assessment. 

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