History-Toronto’s Original Literacy Program for Children

Juniors In Literacy 1983 (JIL1983) is a community-based, self-help, family literacy program presently serving in Toronto, Ontario, Canada. We adopt a holistic approach to free community service. We are also involved in lending our support to a few other international literacy programs.

JIL 1983 is the brain-child of Ms. Jackie Nurse, who pioneered the program in 1983, while on a four-year sabbatical working amongst the children on four First Nations reservations in northern Alberta, and in the city of Edmonton, Alberta.

After returning to Toronto, Ms. Nurse, a former elementary school teacher from the Caribbean twin-islands of Trinidad and Tobago, launched Juniors in Literacy 1983 in the Lakeshore area of Toronto.

Over the years, and while teaching at the college level in Toronto, “Teacher Jackie”, as she is known in her community, worked tirelessly with other local communities in promoting Juniors in Literacy 1983. The self-help, program serves students in Junior and Senior Kindergarten, and Grades 1 to 8. Communities were encouraged to establish their own names even while using the JIL 1983 model.

JIL 1983 is the catalyst in after-school academic/ESL support for families.

Ms.Jackie Nurse embarked upon a campaign for recruiting and training volunteers. Students from neighborhood high schools (contracted to serve 40 hours towards earning their OSSD credit), University of Toronto, York University, and Humber College were all very willing to serve with JIL 1983.

In the late 1980s and early 1990s, there was absolutely no envisioning  at the community level for the Startup of literacy programs to meet the needs of Toronto’s booming multicultural society, and its demands for an alternative method of academic education to help  children. Parents, who themselves were attending ESL classes, were encountering frustration in communicating with schools on behalf of their children.

Schools on the other hand, were at their wits end, moving from textbooks to photocopied worksheets of pages from the text books, and constantly modifying their delivery method. Our new and booming multi-cultural city schools needed additional community help. Classrooms were not equipped with specifically qualified ESL teachers to facilitate our new immigrants.

A report produced by the Ministry of Education entitled, Ontario Study of the Relevance of Education, and the Issue of Dropouts, states “It is therefore a finding of this study that the high school dropout rate in Ontario, as precisely as it can usefully be identified, is between 31 and 33 per cent, and any attempt to stereotype dropouts would be misleading. Their ranks include the academically gifted, as well as low achievers, and students from the most affluent households, as well as from the neediest.”

Parents participating in the Juniors In Literacy 1983 (JIL 1983) self-help, community-based program from its inception understood that “all forms of alternative education” would give their children more supplemental aid for their improved performance in the regular classroom. Teacher Jackie has consistently served at various locations, and also assisted several new immigrant groups in forming their own self-help literacy programs to assist children and parents.

Juniors In Literacy 1983 (JIL 1983) has always provided a very conducive learning environment where parents themselves could socialize, help each other or seek additional help, especially in reading and comprehending documents to be filled out. During its many years of service JIL 1983 has done collaborative work and advocacy work with 15-25 schools of various school boards, in an effort to extract the best possible help and services for our students.

Ms. Jackie Nurse personally gives God “all thanks” for the sustaining power over the years, and also for times of renewal and refreshing. She sincerely thanks the parents who have grown with Juniors In Literacy 1983 through the rough times and, who can now see their young adults taking leadership roles, volunteering and contributing positively to our society. They are our “proof producers”.   TJ thanks our God for them and for continued blessings on all families.  May the Universe smile upon us. Let it be so!

Finally, Teacher Jackie offers thanks to all supporters who contributed by way of gifts-in-kind, service hours, words of encouragement to Juniors In Literacy 1983 (JIL 1983), and thanks, of course, for all the critiques.

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