The ubiquitous presence of children who cannot read in Ontario classrooms has prompted the Ontario Human Rights Commission (OHRC) to launch Right to Read. Right to Read is a public inquiry into human rights issues pertaining to children with reading difficulties. Learning disabilities in general are often neglected in schools because educators and parents alike often misunderstand learning disabilities. But this issue has many facets, such as lack of resources or discrimination, and Right to Read aims to identify each of them to later provide children with reading disabilities the chance at life they deserve. The inquiry made its way to Brampton on January 14th where children with reading disabilities and their parents had a chance to share their experiences in the school system. 

There were four main issues discovered at this meeting. The first issue brought to light was lack of resources. Schools are not equipped to support children who struggle to learn to read. Vikki Pike, a Grade 12 student who is severely behind in her reading level, has been benefitting from the Empower Reading Program at the Trillium School. However, this program is limited to one year, and Pike is not yet at the reading level she needs to be. Pike will also soon age out of high school, giving her very limited opportunities beyond that because of her low reading level. All Pike needs is the tools to succeed, and the onus is on the school board to deliver. 

The next issue discussed at the inquiry was early detection. Teachers often overlook or dismiss children who struggle with reading. This failure to act is most likely due to both a lack of discretion and an unrefined understanding of the early signs of reading disabilities. Furthermore, pressure on parents is a concern. Parents are often forced to advocate for the support of their children and when they fail to achieve this, they must pay for expensive tutoring. Finally, race and social issues were also raised at the inquiry. Parents have noticed biases against black children in terms of teachers lowering their expectations of success in learning to read. A common trend in these issues is the lack of empowerment and attention towards children with reading disabilities. If these children are given the support they need and the encouragement to do well, they will be able to realize their potential.

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This post was written by McKenzie Cline