Burnaby’s Award-Winning LINC Program

We are pleased to welcome Linda Peteherych as our guest blogger. Linda is a LINC Literacy instructor and the Literacy Lead for Burnaby School District’s LINC Program. Today she shares the approach that makes their program unique, earning an honourable mention in the 2020 ABC Life Literacy Canada Literacy Innovation Award.

The Burnaby School District LINC Literacy Stream Program is very excited to have won an honourable mention in the 2020 ABC Life Literacy Canada Literacy Innovation Award competition.  We feel honoured that ABC Life Literacy Canada is recognizing the literacy instruction work we do.

The unique and innovative feature of our literacy program is that we have been taking the principles and methodologies of Dr. Marie Clay’s 1-on-1 reading and writing intervention program for grade 1 struggling readers and adapting it for use in the adult ESL literacy classroom.  Even LINC 1 Literacy clients who never learned to read in their first language and have never held a pencil before, can now read leveled books, recognize over 150 personally relevant high-frequency words, and write from memory.

Teacher and student at chalkboard

Most LINC (Language Instruction for Newcomers to Canada) programs are unable to offer ESL instruction to clients who have little or no first-language literacy, but the BSD LINC Literacy Stream Program welcomes this under-served population.  As a result of changing immigration demographics, increasing numbers of refugee and newcomer students with literacy issues have been entering our LINC program. In response to this change, we began offering a Pre-literacy course in 2010.  That one course gradually evolved into our effective and much in demand 5-level LINC Literacy Stream program.  The objective of our program is to give our low-literacy learners the confidence and skills necessary to join regular LINC classes after LINC 4.  While Literacy Stream students study the same curriculum as our literate students, they are given explicit literacy instruction as well.

Our Literacy Stream Program is the only one that uses Dr. Marie Clay’s effective theory and methodology to deliver literacy instruction.  Dr. Clay’s reading and writing intervention program, Reading Recovery, has been used in schools and school districts across Canada, New Zealand, Australia, the U.S.A. and the U.K. for about 30 years.  The exact same teaching procedures that Dr. Clay developed for use with grade 1 children can be used in 1-on-1 tutoring for adults and can be adapted for use with groups.  Whether you are working with English speakers, ESL adults, or children, the principles and methodologies of Dr. Marie Clay work wonderfully well for all.

Three women writing on a chalkboard.

Learning about Dr. Clay’s principles and methodologies has been the single most important development in my effectiveness as a literacy instructor – by far.  I have learned to teach students to: read for meaning, convey messages in print, develop an awareness of correct English structure – or what ‘sounds right’, notice the details of print, use phonics to solve unknown words, and acquire a large bank of ‘known words’.  I now know the details of helping low-literacy learners to gradually acquire a complex reading and writing processing system and I share this knowledge with my BSD LINC colleagues by providing in-house Pro D.

I would like to thank our team of literacy instructors and resource teachers for taking on a lot of new learning.  I also want to say that we would not have gained the expertise necessary to be successful with our students if it had not been for : Louise Thorburn (former adult education manager), Kerry-Anne Dotto (former Reading Recovery Teacher Leader), and Heather Hart (assistant superintendent).  They enabled me to take part in the intensive, 2-year Reading Recovery training that has made all the difference to our program.

I am also happy to share our pioneering teaching methodologies with the broader adult literacy community.  Over the past year, I conducted conference workshops for ATESL, BC TEAL and Decoda Literacy Solutions.  In late November of this year, I will be conducting a webinar via the Tutela website titled: An Effective Framework for Teaching Adult EAL Literacy.  In this webinar, participants will receive a brief overview of how we use Dr. Clay’s principles and methodologies for our literacy instruction.

Offering an effective literacy program is not easy.  We have learned that ongoing paid sessions of professional development are required.  There is a lot to learn and practice.  Lead literacy instructors are needed to train new instructors and provide ongoing support.  A good selection of leveled books is also needed, and this can become expensive.  The rewards, however, are great.  In the hands of effective instructors or tutors, adults with literacy challenges can build their skills and see progress.  In our highly literate and technologically advanced society, leaving people to struggle with low literacy should not be acceptable especially when help does exist.  I am very excited by the effectiveness of our program and I hope to convince other literacy practitioners to learn about the work of Dr. Clay.

Once again, I would like to thank ABC Life Literacy Canada for recognizing our contribution to the field of adult literacy and I look forward to sharing what we do with the wider adult literacy community.


Linda has recommended the following free webcasts and effective literacy practices video library for more information about Dr. Clay’s work.

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