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Co-education and literacy: 6 guidelines to better support parents

As school workers, how can we ensure that our children benefit from optimal conditions for their development in literacy? Our collaborator offers an intervention, under the acronym BOOKS.

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According to the latest statistics, 49 % of young Quebecers between 16 and 24 years old are considered functionally illiterate. As school workers, how can we ensure that our children benefit from optimal conditions for their development in literacy? Our collaborator offers an intervention, under the acronym BOOKS.

In the best of all possible worlds, all our young people (and not so young) could read, write and count, regardless of their level of education and their background. They would thus have the happiness of understanding, of creating, of learning, of having an easier and better paid career path. They would also be less in a vulnerable context since they would have the necessary skills to understand the intricacies of an agreement, the terms of a contract and the details of an email.


Even though today's youth are constantly texting, seeming to read the net and be informed more than ever through social media, 49 % of them are considered functionally illiterate. According to the latest PIAAC statistics, it is therefore almost one in 2 young Quebecers, between 16 and 24 years old, who do not reach level 3 in literacy and numeracy, the threshold considered necessary to understand longer and more complex texts.


When a child experiences difficulties at the school level, shows signs of delay in his learning, it is first the parent who is called upon. We want to team up with him, to get him involved in the implementation of strategies. Unfortunately, many families are experiencing difficulties.

Knowing that parents find themselves in situations of adversity, poverty, violence and loss of control, asking them to put more effort into reading and math at home may seem inappropriate. Despite all their good intentions, these parents do not have the energy, the skills, or even the level of literacy to support their child.

The intervention

Intervening with parents living in difficult situations, personal issues and challenges in order to equip them to better support their child in their learning in literacy is a task that requires great skill.

Here are some guidelines, under the acronym BOOKS, to incorporate into your approach.


Avoid broad explanations on the importance of literacy and the issues related to delays in learning, statistics, impacts ... The parent who is going through hardship may perceive messages as a criticism, an additional weight in his reality already arduous. He may have a feeling of inferiority, or find it difficult to synthesize all this information.


Ask the parent about his interests, those he shares with the child (cars, cooking, a television series). Link to readings that could potentially engage both parent and child. (eg: "Ah, I see that you are an automobile enthusiast, just like Léonie, we have a book in class on this subject. Your daughter could bring it home and you could read it together.)


Focus your interventions on valuing what the parent is already doing. Ask him to say what he likes to do with the child on a daily basis (play, take a walk, sing, go to the grocery store, etc.). Point out that these activities already have a significant and positive impact on their children's learning. Choose an approach based on the pleasure of reading and counting.


A parent living with socio-economic issues or having a low level of literacy will not necessarily make buying or borrowing books a priority. So it is best to highlight that words, numbers and resources are everywhere. One can read the ketchup bottle, recipe instructions, street signs, websites (under parent's supervision), calculate prices at the grocery store, etc. The child is exposed to words and numbers in everything around him, the role of the parent is to motivate his curiosity and his efforts in reading and mathematics.


Be empathetic and attentive to the issues and realities of parents, without passing judgment. Keep in mind that many are going through situations that they will not want to discuss with you, and that prevent them from being open to your educational advice. Cultivate the relationship of trust. This will be your best guarantee of success. In the longer term, it will allow you to ensure that the daily life of the child is safe and conducive to its development, and to, slowly but surely, equip the parent.


Limit your advice or tips to a minimum. One or two avenues to explore or put into action can be a big challenge for a parent in a precarious situation. Go for simple advice, and don't impose; suggest. Adding extra pressure can just put the parent off and become counterproductive.

The impact

Ensuring that all of our children achieve very good literacy and numeracy skills is of utmost importance. Understanding the dark clouds that weigh on the shoulders of many parents and supporting them in their reality can become the key to success in moving towards this goal.

Some resources:

  • Multiple applications are available to improve reading or help young people learn literacy and numeracy.
  • Alloprof is an excellent source of simple and practical activities and ideas.
  • Many Family community organizations (OCF) provide literacy support. Do you have questions or need resources? Contact them.

About the Author

Annik De Celles
Annik De Celles
Annik De Celles is a teacher by training. After more than 15 years in the field of education at the secondary level, she has an entrepreneurial sting and founded her own company in the agri-food sector that she operates, while teaching part-time, until 2016. In 2017, Annik leaves teaching to become general manager of Septembre éditeur. She uses her passion for educational issues, the world of books and entrepreneurship, in addition to getting involved in various organizations. Annik is the author of 3 healthy cookbooks and 2 practical guides in entrepreneurship.

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