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English-language Canadian Literature in High Schools (Executive Summary)

October 17, 200517 October 2005

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Based largely on teacher and student surveys, this report attempts to document the state of English-language Canadian literature in high schools and to present “pragmatic suggestions on how to ensure that Canadian students and teachers are adequately encouraged to use Canadian literature in schools”. Among the many findings: there is a Canadian literature course in 31% of high schools, and the number is declining; writers in schools are “what gets students most excited about Canadian literature”; and community standards and teachers’ fear of repercussions from parents and community are important influences on the choice of texts.

The report indicates that “the environment and challenges remain very much the same as 30 years ago”. One of the biggest challenges identified is the “lack of a network to share information about and promote Canadian literature to high schools”. Teachers indicated that they “would like to see the amount of Canadian literature taught in schools increased but in order for that to happen there needs to be support, funding, resources and clear mandates from provincial ministries”. Publishers and teachers “would like to see ways to create more excitement for primary texts in the classroom as an investment in the next generation of readers”.

Students, for their part, noted that “they are more inclined to get books from bookstores than school libraries” and that they rely on recommendations from friends and family rather than on book reviews. Over one-half stated that they write creatively. Interestingly, the report points out that “literature, reading and writing have become distinct things rather than integrated”.

The core recommendation of the report is that a distinct body, the “CanLit Educational Project”, be created to “generate cooperation and encourage the use of Canadian literature in Canadian high schools”. This organization would coordinate and facilitate partnerships, communications, research, awareness-building, database work, distribution networking, and awards. In email communication in June 2004, Lascelle Wingate, Executive Director of The Writers’ Trust of Canada, indicated that there has, as yet, been no movement in implementing the report’s recommendations.

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