The Case of the Ontario Right to Read Inquiry

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Lancaster Literacy Research Centre are delighted to welcome Rachel Heydon and Shelley Stagg Peterson to discuss the Ontario Inquiry.

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This Lancaster Literacy Research Centre event will be a talk from Rachel Heydon and Shelley Stagg Peterson, titled 'The Case of the Ontario Right to Read Inquiry: A Trans-national Dialogue on Literacy, Disability, and Pedagogy in a Science of Reading Era'.


The term the Science of Reading has been identified as “a dominant part of discourse in education” (Goodwin & Jiménez, 2020, p. 3); one whose influence has been felt soundly on literacy curricula, policy, and pedagogies across the globe. While cogent arguments have been put forth to diversify conceptualizations of what research can be considered part of the “sciences of reading” (e.g., International Literacy Association, 2020, p. 1), understandings and uses of the term have been “much narrower” (Goodwin & Jiménez, 2020, p. S8) causing new divisions in the field of literacy education (e.g., Goodwin & Jiménez, 2020). The mandating and/or proliferation of synthetic phonics in early literacy curricula, to the exclusion of teachers’ professional discernment of what a particular child requires in a given circumstance to read (e.g., Flewitt, 2013), is but one example. Recently, invoking the discourse of the Science of Reading, the Ontario Human Rights Commission launched the Right to Read Inquiry (OHRC, 2019). The starting point for the Inquiry is the concern that Ontario’s public education system may be failing to meet the needs of students with reading disabilities. As two teacher educators and researchers in literacy, we use the case of the Inquiry to invite a trans-national dialogue on reading, literacies, disability, and pedagogy in an era of the Science of Reading. The symposium will start with a presentation introducing the Inquiry and the role that teacher education programs have been mandated to play. We will then move to conversation about how literacy research and education might avoid polarizing discourses in favour of those that respect the complex, diverse, and living nature of reading within literacies (e.g., Pahl & Rowsell, 2020). Our goal is to co-develop with participants resources for thinking with the “entanglements that render [all] children capable” (Murris, 2019, p. 56) in reading.

Event schedule:

15:00pm (UTC +0) - Welcomes & introductions (please enter the meeting with your 'real' name as your display name, and your camera switched on, to allow us to all put faces to each others' names)

15:05 - Presentation from Speaker Name(s) (please turn your camera off and mute your microphone during the presentation)

15:40 - Discussion (please use the raise hand feature on Teams to indicate you would like to have a turn speaking and once asked to speak by an event facilitator, please un-mute your microphone and turn your camera on)

Presenter bio:

Rachel Heydon, PhD, is Professor, Faculty of Education, Western University, Canada. A former school-teacher, Rachel works in the areas of curriculum, early childhood, intergenerational learning, teacher professional learning, and literacies with an eye to understanding curriculum and pedagogies that can expand children's and elders' literacy and identity options. Rachel's books include Constructing Meanings: Literacy Pedagogies K-8 (7th ed) (with Marianne McTavish and Joyce Bainbridge); Why Multimodal Literacy Matters (with Susan O'Neill); Learning at the Ends of Life: Children, Elders, and Literacies in Intergenerational Curriculum; and Negotiating Spaces for Literacy Learning (with Mary Hamilton, Kathryn Hibbert, and Roz Stooke).

Shelley Stagg Peterson is a professor in the Department of Curriculum, Teaching and Learning at the University of Toronto, Canada. She draws on her experience as a rural primary teacher in her research on writing pedagogy and assessment, professional learning through collaborative action research, and rural education. She is the project director of the Northern Oral language and Writing through Play (NOW Play) project, a 14-year partnership project involving collaboration with Indigenous and non-Indigenous educators, researchers, instructors of early childhood diploma programs, and speech-language pathologists in remote rural communities in Canada, New Zealand and Sweden. Her forthcoming book, co-edited with Nicola Friedrich, is The Role of Play and Place Children’s Language and Literacy. Shelley’s service includes membership on the Board of Directors of the International Literacy Association.

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