The TD National Reading Summit is the first step towards developing a Canadian national reading strategy, which will foster a reading culture in communities across the country. Three successive summits will offer an opportunity to identify key strategies and build coalitions to work towards policy development and implementation. The summits will be held in both official languages and address the needs of Canadians in all regions, including the First Nations, immigrant communities, and youth. While various constituencies will gather at the summits, the work of building support for our goals will continue throughout the year.
The first summit is scheduled for November 12-13, 2009, in Toronto, and will bring together key stakeholders from the worlds of writing, publishing, libraries, education, academia, business, and government. Speakers from all regions of Canada and around the world will share their research and experience in developing reading promotion programs, and delegates will lay the groundwork for implementing new programs and policies with both provincial and federal participation.
We live in an accelerated, information-saturated society that often discourages sustained engagement with many traditional forms of writing. Mass media, digital culture and stunning advances in communications technology together represent unprecedented opportunities in terms of how ideas circulate within technologically advanced societies. But these same forces also pose formidable challenges for those worried about the future of reading.
These are not theoretical concerns. In his bracing 2008 report on the state of Canadian literacy, TD Bank deputy chief economist Craig Alexander lays out compelling evidence to suggest that Canadians shouldn’t be complacent about generally positive standardized test scores and news of Canada’s standing on international academic rankings. Probing deeper, Mr. Alexander finds much to indicate that all is not well. Four in ten youth lack adequate literacy skills. Stubborn regional disparities persist. Boys lag behind girls. Poverty affects learning. As for adults, among Canadians between 16 and 65, almost half struggle with literacy, often due to linguistic barriers among new immigrants.
Many countries around the world have developed national programs to promote reading among children and the general population. In Canada, individual provinces and communities have made steps in this direction; however, because schools and libraries are the most obvious focus for public reading initiatives, and both are under provincial and municipal jurisdictions, we have no coordinated national strategy to promote reading.
The ultimate goal of a national strategy would be to promote reading among all Canadians, reflecting the value of reading as a tool for democracy and civic engagement, a means to equalize the playing field for all Canadians, a way for Canadians to learn about themselves, and a vehicle for joy.
The conference will appeal to a broad group of participants interested in issues surrounding reading, literacy, education, culture, citizenship, public policy, heritage and more. Government and elected officials, librarians, teachers, early childhood educators, academics, literacy experts, parents, writers, community organizers—the list goes on and on—will be interested in the conference and its subsequent campaign.
The TD National Reading Summit is organized by a volunteer steering committee made up of librarians, writers, publishers, and parent activists. It is presented by TD Bank, in association with Humber College, the Toronto Public Library, and the Canadian chapter of the International Board on Books for Young People (IBBY Canada). Click here to view a full list of conference sponsors.