Takhar: Literacy: the life skill needed to succeed

Brynne Takhar is a Grade 12 student at H.J. Cody School and writes a monthly column for the paper

Good schools equip their students with learning tools and study habits; great schools equip their students with skills to succeed in life. And what are these life skills, exactly? Oftentimes, they are as simple as knowing how to read, write, and understand numbers. Starting in elementary school, students who struggle with literacy and numeracy skills begin to fall behind, and by high school, students lacking the ability to fully comprehend literature or grasp math are going to have an incredibly difficult time achieving their academic goals.

There is one particular academic and life skill that is considered to be the single greatest indicator of a student’s success compared to any other: literacy. Over the past few decades, the amount that students read and the amount that students are expected to read has changed inversely; despite the curriculum demanding higher levels of reading comprehension, children are picking up books less and less often. This growing gap between skills and requirements has forced schools to take action, leading to nearly every school in Alberta having some form of literacy program, from elementary all the way to high school.

To learn about how my school has been supporting students’ literacy, I spoke to Ms. Charanduk, an English teacher as well as H.J’s literacy lead. Our literacy programs, she explained, are focused on all aspects of reading, writing, and comprehension. In the Grade 9 program, the class is not simply an extra English class – there are no reading comprehension tests, just interesting projects and activities paired with reading time. For Grades 10 and 11, Reading 15/25 courses are available to students to support their literacy development throughout the rest of their high school career. As you can see through these programs, H.J. Cody cares very much about helping students grow their literacy skills and reading confidence, regardless of how early or late in their education – it is never too late to learn! Ms. Charanduk explained that reading is a ‘soft skill’, which is a skill that is gained over time with consistent practice. Growing one’s literacy skills can be a slow process, but the school hopes that students will reap the benefits of their dedication by seeing improvements in their comprehension along with a new found appreciation for literature. If you want to succeed not just in high school, but in life, learning to love reading is the first step to take.

One of the most complained-about subjects in school is undoubtedly math. Like the Grade 9 literacy class, numeracy is a class held every second day in the semester where students are not taking math. The acting senior high vice principal and math teacher, Ms. Schaab, outlined the goals of the program, which are to help students improve their mental math skills, pattern recognition, and real-life number skills.

Both the numeracy and literacy programs have been running for three years, and have been constantly improving; the plan that seems to work best for numeracy is spending the first half of the semester practicing math skills, and the second half beginning curriculum, in order to slow the pace of the math class down and allow more time for students to grasp concepts. By spending time exploring numbers and how they work, the school hopes to make mathematics a much less daunting subject for students.

By high school, it is common to forget that the goal of secondary education is not to pass exams, or complete homework, or even to earn a diploma. The purpose of school is to learn, and to gain fundamental skills and knowledge that will aid you throughout life.

Knowing how to read and write not just at an acceptable level, but proficiently and with enjoyment, are key habits for success and will prove advantageous in countless areas of life. Having a base understanding of numbers – knowing why math works, instead of simply how to do it – provides not only insight into the subject, but also an appreciation for mathematics.

Everyone is capable of reading, writing, and doing mathematics in a competent and skillful way, regardless of previous experience or circumstances. At school, at home, and in our community, let’s all help one another to believe in our own ability, so we can achieve the success we are capable of achieving.

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