The Literacy Centre

The Literacy Centre The Literacy Centre is a privately run business that specializes in the assessment, enrichment, and remediation of literacy skills in children 3-17 years.

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Handwriting Beats Typing and Watching Videos for Learning to Read - Neuroscience News
Handwriting Beats Typing and Watching Videos for Learning to Read - Neuroscience News

Handwriting Beats Typing and Watching Videos for Learning to Read - Neuroscience News

Adults learning to read a novel language can better cement their lessons with handwriting, a new study reports. Writing by hand reinforces both aural and visual learning, providing a perceptual-motor experience that unifies what is being learned about the letters.




Wishing all of our dads a wonderful day!!

Wishing all of our dads a wonderful day!!

Wishing all of our dads a wonderful day!!





BLOG: Concerned parent over letter reversals in her 5 year she dyslexic?

Reversals in young children are not a sign of dyslexia. Reversals occur because the visual system has a built in tendency for what we call object constancy. The brain assumes that objects do not change just because they are rotated or turned upside down. Think of a cup with a handle. You know it is the same cup even if you flip it around. Letters such as /p, b, d/ etc are identical in the brain just as if they were a single cup being rotated. A /p/ rotated looks like an upright /d/, while a /d/ flipped looks like a /b/. It takes the brain quite some time to differentiate letters as following different rules with constant attributes.

Reading development goes through at least 4 stages:

The first stage is what we call Pictorial, when the brain treats a written word like a picture or single object. At an early age of 4 to 5, children typically do not process real sight words, they are all just pictures the brain is trying to memorize.

The second stage of reading occurs when the brain begins to recognize that words are actually made up of separate components (letters), each of which has a specific meaning. Children then begin to decode words which is a stage they must go through before they can begin to recognize sight words.

Reading takes about 3-6 years to fully develop in the brain, with a child typically showing fuency at around age 10.
These are some very specific skills which we know do place children at risk for difficulty learning to read.

• Difficulty pronouncing new words and remembering them
• Difficulty breaking words apart into sounds
• Difficulty blending sounds together to make words
• Difficulty remembering the names and sounds of the letters

About 20% of children will have difficulty, most of whom can be helped with an evidence-based reading instruction program.

Dr Stephen Barker
Ph.D., C. Psych

BLOG -    Don’t Wait: Do It NowWhen young children are struggling with learning basic literacy skills, schools often tel...
A 'million word gap' for children who aren't read to at home: That's how many fewer words some may hear by kindergarten

BLOG - Don’t Wait: Do It Now

When young children are struggling with learning basic literacy skills, schools often tell parents not to be concerned and that when the children are about 8 the problems will be looked at. This reflects a profound and very damaging lack of understanding about reading acquisition in children.
While it doesn’t matter at what age you learn the history of Canada it matters very much at what age you begin to acquire the complex, neurological skill of reading. There is a time frame within which this skill is more easily acquired and there are severe consequences for not acquiring it early.
Reading development requires a complex interaction among areas in both hemispheres of the brain and in both visual recognition and language systems. Reading development goes through 4 distinct stages. During each stage there is a slow accumulation of skill and then a sudden jump up to the next stage. The first stage involves introducing the child to print, to books and to language. The second stage is a pictorial stage when the brain treats written words as pictures or whole visual objects. The third stage, the phonological stage is where the brain begins to figure out that words are made up of sounds and those sounds map on to letters and letter combinations. In the final stage of reading development, the orthographic stage, the brain has become highly efficient at rapid and automatic word identification. At this point specific words may be represented by specific groups of neurons. Reading has become highly efficient and very automatic.
This whole process takes on average about 6 years for a child. The development of the final reading stage is associated with the brain becoming far more efficient at reading words with that process becoming highly focussed in the brain. Interestingly as the brain gets better at something fewer and fewer brain areas need to be activated to accomplish the task. Gradually the process becomes automatized. That is, it does not require any use of conscious attentional resources, it feels effortless and we are free think about the content of what we are reading not about how to read.
The problems for children who are behind become greater and more concerning each day. They are not only behind their peers in skill development, but they will also progress more slowly. While this may not appear to be a significant problem if all the children are in the third stage of reading acquisition; the phonological stage, the problem will suddenly appear far more serious when most of the children jump up to the next stage. This typically happens between the ages of 8 and 10. This jump up to final level is based on successfully acquiring all the foundational skills from the earlier levels. It is also the age at which the schools say they will address the problem. They are 3 years too late!
I have tried to show the learning curves of children’s reading skill development to provide a rough graphic image of how struggling children fall behind. The upper line reflects the normal learning curve of reading while the one below demonstrates the learning curve of a child who is struggling. In the graph you can see the slow development within each stage and the rapid jump up to the next stage. The struggling child really falls behind because they will be reading at an earlier stage than their peers.

Shape of Learning to Read Curve
5 7 8 10 13

There are however several additional consequences of falling behind in reading.
• It is part of human nature that we compare ourselves to others. This is how we gauge how we are. Children who see others rapidly moving ahead in reading will judge themselves as lacking and their esteem will suffer. Since motivation is based on how well we expect to do something and on our beliefs about whether we can improve; we see motivation to learn to read diminishing. Children will put less effort in things they don’t expect to do well at.
• We are social animals and we rely on the esteem of others, on how much others value us and this determines our status in the group. If you do not demonstrate the central skills that teachers and adults value your place in the social structure of your peers will suffer.
• Finally, while your peers are using their reading skills to acquire new knowledge the child who is struggling is still using their resources to improve how well they read.
The longer we wait to address reading problems the longer will be needed to remediate them. Modern remedial methods can improve the skill development of children. It is however a process that required time and commitment from children, teachers and parents. Don’t wait, start now.

​​​​​Dr Stephen D Barker
​​​​​Consultant Psychologist, The Literacy Centre
For anyone interested a good article on how to support reading development in very young children

Young children whose parents read them five books a day enter kindergarten having heard about 1.4 million more words than kids who were never read to, a new study found. This 'million word gap' could be one key in explaining differences in vocabulary and reading development.


BLOG April 2, 2020

MINDSET - A Predictor of Success

Many families approach me each month asking why their child is lazy, why he doesn’t seem to care about anything, or commenting that she appears turned off from learning. They hear statements like “I’m stupid”, “I’ll never learn to read”, or “This is impossible and will never get better, no matter how hard I try”. It’s heart-breaking for any parent to hear these words from their child. So why do some children say these things, and is there anything we can do as parents to change their mindset? The answer to this question, is yes!

Mindset is a powerful tool in determining one’s success. When we have a positive mindset and feel confident in daily life, we tend to try new experiences, persist with challenging tasks, and embrace failure so we can learn from it. This is an example of someone that believes he or she is in control of their destiny and future. On the other hand, if we approach life with a negative mindset and believe that we have no control over how things turn out for us, we quickly learn to not bother trying new things and begin to develop a feeling of helplessness.

Psychologists once believed that helplessness was a learned behaviour, but what we know now is that this emotional state is hard-wired in children. These children actually believe that they have no sense of control in their life to change the outcome of things. They attribute failure to their own weaknesses and may say things like, “I’m just stupid, that’s why I can’t learn to read.” Similarly, they often attribute any personal success to an outside source such as a teacher or coach. “I learned to add numbers because Mrs. Smith taught me.” Psychologists have developed a paradigm to better understand and explain the behaviours we see involving helplessness which includes 4 quadrants: Permanent/Pervasive, Permanent/Localized, Temporary/Pervasive, and Temporary/Localized. A child with a Permanent/Persuasive mindset for instance, believes that he is bad at everything and that no matter what he does, he’ll never get better at anything. He sees himself as stupid and believes that he will remain stupid forever. This mindset can be contrasted to the child with a Permanent/Localized mindset who believes she’s not good at reading and it will never get any better no matter how much she tries. This child though is able to acknowledge that she’s good at some things, perhaps like math.

It is important when recognizing these mindsets in your child that you determine whether they are pervasive and permanent in nature, or localized and temporary. Does your child think everything he tries is difficult and impossible, or is his struggle localized to one area of his development, such as reading or math? The child that makes statements like, “I’m bad at everything, I can’t do anything right” believes that he has no control over altering the outcome on anything he does, ever.

So what can we do as teachers and parents to alter the mindset of our students and children? Ultimately, we must empower them to believe that they, themselves, are in control of what happens in their life. Through reframing the behaviour, us adults need to teach children how to engage higher order cognitive systems to overtake their emotional systems. So how do we do this, you might ask. We begin by talking with our children about THEIR WAY OUT of this negative mindset. Discuss why things happen the way they do. Ask if it’s always the same result that occurs. Talk about what he or she can do to make things different next time. Your child needs to believe that he is the master of his mind and can make desired things happen. She needs to believe that she controls whether she learns to read and that she has the power to make her mind do that task.
Support your child’s successes by asking him what he did to learn that new skill. If your child struggles with reading but is suddenly able to read new words or material, ask her how she did that. The key is helping your child recognize that her own actions are the cause of her success. Keep in mind, your child expects to fail so he needs to see that his hard work has changed the outcome, not his teacher’s instruction. This is change in mindset and will set your child on the path to controlling his or her destiny.

Candice Wood



Based on the latest information from NIAGARA PUBLIC HEALTH regarding the most recent stay-at-home measures (posted below) we feel it is safe for us to continue in-person sessions with all lessons being 1:1, social distancing in place, and protective equipment in place for instructors and students. We will continue our contactless approach with families upon drop off and pick up times to limit exposure

Work, school and child care
1. Working or volunteering where the nature of the work or volunteering requires the individual to leave their residence, including when the individual’s employer has determined that the nature of the individual’s work requires attendance at the workplace.

2. Attending school or a post-secondary institution.

3. Attending, obtaining or providing child care.

4. Receiving or providing training or educational services.




POSTED BY ONE OF OUR MOMS....“Nightly reading from the kid who couldn’t read “the” last year - guess she just wanted to ...


“Nightly reading from the kid who couldn’t read “the” last year - guess she just wanted to go straight to chapter books”

Way to go kiddo, you have worked so hard and you’re doing it ❤️


“Nightly reading from the kid who couldn’t read “the” last year - guess she just wanted to go straight to chapter books”

Way to go kiddo, you have worked so hard and you’re doing it ❤️


The centre will be running our scheduled online sessions today. Stay safe if you have to travel anywhere today

Wishing all of our families a lovely day!

Wishing all of our families a lovely day!

Wishing all of our families a lovely day!


BLOG #10 January 31, 2021

Executive functions help us engage in adaptive behavior, they help us adjust to the everchanging ongoing demands of our lives. They are associated with areas in the prefrontal lobe of the brain and begin to develop in the second year of life, not maturing until our early twenties. They should not be confused with intelligence, but rather a set of abilities that help us stop, think, plan and carry out complex behaviours. Without them, we live in the moment and usually just respond to our most immediate needs and thoughts or to the immediate things around us.

In addition to things such as impulse control, controlling our attentional systems and sticking to longer term plans, they also help us adapt to change. Cognitive rigidity occurs when the skills and behaviours associated with executive functions have not developed adequately. In order to be flexible, we need to be aware of our own thoughts and feelings but also be aware of how our actions are impacting others. We need to be aware of, to what extent our actions are helping us move towards our goals, and asses how effective they are.

The specific behaviours associated with executive functions have to be learned. The ease with which they are learned will vary among children and some will require explicit and direct instruction and practice in order to learn them. When we look at fixed or inflexible thinking we are seeing a lack of executive development.

Conversation is a complex interplay between people and requires that we monitor not only our own thought and words but also that we monitor the other person to assess how our words are effecting them and whether or not they may want to say something.
Young children use conversation to share their thoughts but as they get older they need to use conversation to develop social relationships.
In working with children who show more immature kinds of conversational patterns we need to help them move on to socially driven conversation. “We can teach these skills”
The first step is to increase the child’s self awareness. Help them see that just talking on and on is not fun for the other person. They have to stop sometimes to see what the other person thinks, are they interested in what you are saying, do they want to talk etc. You can make this a game like activity by practicing with your child to see if they can figure out when you might be bored listening to them. You can teach and have them practice turn taking, how to ask a question, how to see when the other person wants to talk.
Like many new skills they will seem artificial at first but through practice they will become automatic. The skills involved in reciprocal conversation are crucial for effective social interactions.

Dr Stephen Barker


4438 Ontario St # 202
Beamsville, ON
L0R 1B5

Opening Hours

Monday 9am - 7pm
Tuesday 9am - 7pm
Wednesday 9am - 7pm
Thursday 9am - 7pm
Friday 9am - 7pm
Saturday 9am - 1pm




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