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• Jan 25, 2022

For many Canadian families, the pandemic exposed that remote learning isn’t serving everyone equally.

In particular, BGC Canada (formerly Boys and Girls Clubs of Canada) identified that many children are falling behind on a core skill: literacy.

For the families with children at one of more than 700 BGC Club locations across Canada, the Raising Readers program was created at a critical time. BGC Clubs open their doors to all kids and teens and see firsthand the impact the pandemic has had on young people and their education.

BGC Canada was one of 15 organizations from across Canada and the United States that received a grant under the 2021 TD Ready Challenge, an annual North American initiative designed to help solve real-life issues impacting people in our communities by providing grants to non-profit and charitable organizations that address a problem statement which changes each year. It is a key component of the Bank’s corporate citizenship platform, the TD Ready Commitment.

The 2021 iteration of The TD Ready Challenge was focused on those organizations working on innovative interventions to help address pandemic-related learning loss, particularly in math and reading, among disproportionately impacted students in grades K-12 to help them catch up and minimize future loss.

Research predicts that the interruptions to education resulting from the pandemic are expected to have serious ramifications for generations to come, particularly among students from Indigenous and racialized communities, low-income households, those with disabilities, or those with limited access to technology.

“Intermittent school closures and in-class learning disruptions over the last two years have created significant challenges for both students and teachers," said Janice Farrell Jones, Senior Vice President, Sustainability and Corporate Citizenship, TD Bank Group.

"Through the 2021 TD Ready Challenge, we are proud to provide grants to 15 organizations that are working to scale innovative programs designed to help tackle predicted learning loss. These programs are designed to help create opportunities for students so that they can feel more confident about their futures and have the opportunity to succeed in a changing world."

BGC Canada working to address one-on-one support and unequal access to technology

For BGC Canada, the Raising Readers program is designed specifically to address two pain points affecting the young people served by their Clubs: a lack of one-on-one reading support from teachers, and limited access to the Internet and technology.

"When families are struggling, they turn to BGC Clubs for guidance and support, during the pandemic and beyond,” says Owen Charters, President & CEO, BGC Canada. “We applaud TD for stepping up to help our Clubs and Hoot Reading remove barriers to technology and education and give young people a boost in their literacy skills when they need it the most. We know this will have a long-term and positive impact on thousands of students across Canada.”

BGC Canada’s Raising Readers program is powered by Hoot Reading, which recruits and trains experienced classroom teachers to provide one-on-one tutoring. The Hoot Reading app recreates the interactive experience of in-person learning: the student and teacher can see and hear each other over video chat as they read a book together, and both parties can see where the other person is pointing on the screen. The app houses a library of more than 2,000 diverse and inclusive books, ranging from pre-reading basics to advanced literacy.

BGC Canada recently received a 2021 TD Ready Challenge grant for $1-million CAD to help address concerns many students are currently facing such as unequal access to technology, quality tutoring, private study space and proper supervision. The money from the grant will be used to fund BGC Canada's initiative to provide remote literacy tutoring through Hoot Reading to more than 2,500 children over the course of one year.

The Raising Readers program has three main goals: to improve outcomes across all areas of literacy (letter sounds, written and oral fluency and comprehension), improve kids’ attitudes toward reading, and identify and flag potential learning challenges or differences to help parents develop learning plans.

Most importantly, BGC Canada knows the program is effective – pre-pandemic, the organization ran a successful Raising Readers pilot project with 250 members. With the 2021 TD Ready Challenge grant, BGC Canada is hoping to reach more students by scaling up a proven solution: early intervention for a long-term impact.

Meet all of the 2021 grant recipients below, as they've described themselves in their own words, and learn more about the TD Ready Challenge at www.td.com/readychallenge.

$1 million CAD / $1 million USD recipients:

BGC Canada (Formerly Boys and Girls Clubs of Canada): Raising Readers in a Post Pandemic World – BGC Canada powered by Hoot Reading (Canada)

"Raising Readers in a Post Pandemic World: BGC Canada powered by Hoot Reading will provide 1:1, evidence-based remote literacy tutoring to over 2,500 children over the course of one year to address pandemic related learning loss. We will deliver over 12,500 hours of tutoring to the most in-need kids across Canada to provide equitable access to education at a critical time for our kids."

The Education Fund, Inc.: Edible Outdoor Eco-Labs to Accelerate Learning (Florida, U.S.)

"Via outdoor eco-labs installed on school grounds, The Education Fund provides thousands of students with multi-layered, hands-on lessons to accelerate academic success – 67% of students surveyed improved their science proficiency in 2020-21 using this methodology, while adding native fresh food and tree canopy to concrete-ridden marginalized neighborhoods in Miami-Dade County."

Strong Start Charitable Organization: Letters, Sounds and Words (Ontario, Canada)

"Letters, Sounds and Words is an evidence-based, high impact early literacy intervention program for children ages 5-9 , delivered in partnership with school boards and schools across Ontario. Children are paired with trained community volunteers who visit schools to work one-one-one with them, playing carefully designed games and activities. The 10-week program helps children develop foundational literacy skills. Support from TD Ready Challenge will enable Strong Start to help an additional 9,000 children."

Tech Spark Canada: Spark Plug – Democratizing Education through AI and Data-driven Personalized Learning (Canada)

"Spark Plug uses artificial intelligence and predictive data analytics to personalize learning experiences in reading and math for Black, Indigenous and People of Colour (BIPOC) middle school students. We use a proprietary algorithm to identify each student’s intelligence type and learning level so we can send personalized culturally responsive content to their devices to increase their unique understanding of reading and math concepts."

$750,000 CAD / $625,000 USD recipients:

LUCY Outreach: Lifting Up Camden’s Youth Inside & Outside of the Classroom (New Jersey, U.S.)

"Since the founding of the organization, LUCY ('Lifting Up Camden’s Youth') Outreach was established to address disproportionate learning loss, and continues to use innovative programs and support services to address this loss, especially in math and reading. LUCY fills this gap through after school, evening, weekend, and summer programs, including college and career readiness."

The McKenna Institute at the University of New Brunswick: Indigenous Youth Digital Acceleration Program (New Brunswick, Canada)

"The Digital Acceleration program bridges the digital divide faced by Indigenous youth by employing an integrated, hands-on approach to learning, designed to build on a variety of STEM topics including (but not limited to) mathematics, technology, computer literacy, biology and sustainability to one of the youngest and fastest growing demographics in Canada."

The Reading Partnership in collaboration with the Canadian Children's Literacy Foundation: Scaling ‘Reading Partnership for Parents’ (RPP) (Canada)

"The Reading Partnership will address learning loss by scaling ‘Reading Partnership for Parents’ (RPP) which helps parents teach their kids in grades K-1 to read, and by equipping organizations, through a train-the-trainer program, to deliver RPP. With 10 years of successfully engaging racialized families in high-potential, low-income communities, RPP will reach 736 families nationally."

University of Calgary: Math Minds (Canada)

"The Math Minds model has been proven to have a significant, year-over-year impact on student learning across grades 1-6. By sharing Math Minds findings and professional learning resources, we will equip current and pre-service teachers and education leaders with teaching strategies so they may start using them as soon as possible to improve learner experience, generally, and alleviate student learning loss caused by the pandemic, specifically."

$375,000 - $500,000 CAD / $325,000 - $425,000 USD recipients:

The Arc Prince George’s County: Catalyst Project (Maryland, U.S.)

"The Arc’s Catalyst Project will address the learning loss suffered by students with intellectual and developmental disabilities (I/DD) in Prince George’s County, Maryland. It will encompass multiple supports including case management, occupational and speech therapy, tutoring, employment readiness, and connection to public benefits."

Codman Academy Foundation: The Codman Academy Tutorial Program (Massachusetts, U.S.)

"The Codman Academy Tutorial Program provides students with additional learning support inside and outside the classroom with one-on-one or small group tutoring during Skills Block (structured academic support time). The tutorial also aims to use evidence from assessments administered during remote learning to address learning loss."

Immigrant and Refugee Community Organization of Manitoba Inc.: Scaling-Up Holistically – An Integrated Learning Model for Newcomer Refugee Youth (Manitoba, Canada)

"The Scaling-Up initiative is a blended in-person and online after school enrichment program that offers hands on learning opportunities in the classroom and community, and uses a holistic framework that considers youths’ emotional, social, and academic needs. A balance of group and 1-1 settings aids in education recovery because each student receives tailored, meaningful, and timely support."

Kids Code Jeunesse: Building Sustainable Learning Pathways (Quebec, Canada)

"From a fun and immersive coding introduction to a sustainable learning environment, we’ll use coding as a catalyst to enhance learners’ math skills outcomes. We’ll partner with youth serving community organizations who serve historically marginalized and racialized learners to be part of their extra-curricular program activities."

MY TURN: Project Complete (New Hampshire, U.S.)

"Project Complete is an expansion of MY TURN’s existing High School Equivalency Test (HiSET) Academy targeting those young people who fell off track during virtual learning and are seeking alternative pathways to obtain their secondary credentials. Project Complete offers comprehensive HiSET Prep and post-secondary planning in partnership with our WIOA Out-of-School Youth Workforce Development Program."

South Asian Youth Centre: SAYA Elmhurst Center Academic Readiness + Mentoring Initiative (New York, U.S.)

"South Asian Youth Centre will restructure and expand our mentorship and academic readiness initiative by providing stipends to mentors, supporting existing staff members who oversee this work, and hiring a part-time Academic Readiness Coordinator and SAT Instructor. The goal of the initiative is to ensure sustainable academic gains and minimize learning loss in the areas of math, reading, writing, and communication."

Victoria Native Friendship Centre: Victoria Native Friendship Centre Bruce Parisian Library Reading Hub (British Columbia, Canada)

"The Victoria Native Friendship Centre’s Bruce Parisian Library will become a Reading Hub for in-person and online cultural programming for urban Indigenous pre-school, and K-12 school children. The Library Team, Elders, and volunteers will read to children while Indigenous authors will be invited to speak to schools and to online book groups."


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