FORT ST. JOHN, B.C. – Innovations for Learning Canada has added Robert Ogilvie Elementary to its growing list of schools it supports with early literacy programming thanks to a collaboration between Telus and Enbridge.

IFL received a $200,000 grant from the Telus Friendly Future Foundation to expand its programming from Ontario into B.C. and expanded to Fort St. John after Enbridge volunteered to pay the non-profit’s school fees, allowing Robert Ogilvie to access the programming at no cost.

“There really is nothing more powerful than helping a kid learn to read at this age because it transforms their future,” Executive Director of IFL, Fabrice Grover, said.

Grover said the non-profit is always looking to expand programming and invites other companies to reach out and work with them to further their impact.

“We would love for other companies to realize that they can join. They can follow these companies’ leads,” Grover said.

IFL says it will work hand in hand with the SD60 to offer 30 high-need children access to its literacy programs that combine high dosage and enrichment tutoring for unparalleled results.

Grover says this model is effective because it utilizes shorter, daily tutoring sessions instead of infrequent long sessions like conventional tutoring and adds that high-dosage tutoring is also more cost-effective.

“The reason is we’re able to hire, train and train paraprofessionals in the community to serve as what we call early literacy interventionists,” Grover explained.

“ELIs come into the classroom every day. They work with ten children per hour. They’re five-minute sprints, and they’re working on the phonics foundation. So they’re giving the kid the kind of differentiated one-on-one instruction that teachers struggle to provide in group settings,” Grover continued.

On top of providing one-on-one support to kids, IFL also has virtual volunteers, coming from companies that provide funding to the non-profit, that call and read to children in participating classrooms once a week for thirty minutes.

According to the World Literacy Foundation, the COVID-19 pandemic has caused a catastrophic rise in illiteracy, which IFL says requires intervention, particularly in marginalized and remote Canadian communities where the pandemic has disproportionately impacted children.

“Kids from less advantaged backgrounds have been disproportionately affected by COVID because their parents are challenged to provide the kind of support that those kids need,” said Grover.

The non-profit said in a release that in Fort St. John, approximately 30 per cent of the students come from neighbouring Indigenous communities, including Doig First Nation, Blueberry First Nation, and Halfway River First Nation.

The non-profit also works to celebrate communities it works with and helps co-create children’s stories that aim to celebrate the strength of the communities they serve.

While the non-profit doesn’t exclusively work with Indigenous communities, they work with many, some located on reserves.

“The cool thing about that is that there’s this amazing culture that we can tap into, and we can create these stories and actually infuse the language of the region into the story,” Grover said.

“So the original language of the region is there, and we’re creating phonetic spellings. And because it’s an ePlatform and they’re eBooks. We actually record elders speaking the words, and the language and the tutor or the child can click on the word to hear it pronounced with the correct pronunciation,” Grover continued.

He added that this is an excellent opportunity for non-Indigenous people to experience the original language of the region and also gives kids from those regions a chance to feel proud of their culture.

To learn more about IFL or how to get involved, click here.