top of page
  • Writer's pictureM. Kovack

On your mark, get set, RISE!! A Culturally Responsive & Relevant “Readiness” Framework.

CfA Science Education Department (18, October, 2021).

After beating my head against a brick wall trying to improve beginning reading instruction practices in the school system as a K-3 and special education teacher, I decided to focus my efforts on trying to prevent the proverbial drowning babies from falling into the river in the first place. Responding to an advertisement in our local newspaper, I facilitated my first family literacy workshop for disadvantaged single mothers who were studying at an adult learning centre. I was so energized by this experience, I spent the next 16 satisfying years (filled with treasured moments) as an Early Literacy Specialist with the Ontario Early Years system. Here, I learned alongside enthusiastic and open-minded speech-language pathologists, early years practitioners (ECEs), families, and their children about how to support early language and literacy development for children birth to six years of age. I had the privilege of building some truly creative resources and programs and enjoyed every minute of every day working with my early years peers and families (who eventually became like family and peers).

The Ontario Early Years pedagogy was built upon a solid foundation about how learning happens – through a sense of belonging, engagement, well-being, and expression. I observed and listened to early years language and literacy research, pedagogy, educators, parents, and children. Years later, I studied at the University of British Columbia (UBC) and received my MEd in Early Childhood Education where I learned about the importance of socio-cultural perspectives and families’ funds of knowledge (i.e.: valuable background knowledge and skills that children come to school with from their homes).

So, when I read about the “Readiness Through Integrative Science and Engineering (RISE) Project” in Dr. Hugh Catts’ (2022) recent Reading League journal article, every cell in my body lit up with excitement.

The RISE project combines:

· home-school connections;

· strengths-based & socio-cultural mindfulness;

· co-constructed curriculum with families from diverse backgrounds;

· supports for teacher practice; and

· STEM!! (which includes a lot language in order to study, and content knowledge in order

for success in reading comprehension)

CfA SED (2021).

With the growing awareness of the unfairness of state/provincial reading tests to disadvantaged students, their teachers, and their school districts (Catts, 2022), we are learning that it is not so much that students have a “knowledge gap” in general, but that they have a knowledge gap about the specific content in the tests. Thus, it is more challenging to use their background and content knowledge to help them make sense of the text and make inferences that would help them answer the comprehension questions effectively. Catts (2022) takes a thorough look at this issue and presents some solutions, one of them being ‘content-rich’ curricula – with local control.

And just like that, I was hooked.

Straight to YouTube I went to learn more about the RISE program. And it was even more inspiring than I imagined. Brilliant!

It is over an hour (you could start at minute 7:00), but well worth it.

CfA SED (2021).

The engaging part for me was the amount of academic LANGUAGE that must have been happening between parents and their children (and just more interesting conversations in general), and the way that they used home-school connections to connect meaningful OBJECTS, ROUTINES, and PEOPLE in their everyday lives.

The RISE program sets out a clear path to how we can make curriculum more culturally relevant.

Highlights in the video:

Minute 7:00 - 30:00 - the culturally responsive and relevant framework

Minute 30:00 – 40:00 -practical activities (lots of real photos) and how they were co-constructed. (e.g., thinking about neighbourhood walks differently - bringing parents and teachers together to make a scrapbook; studying tall structures modelled after what they were seeing in their neighbourhoods; using children’s cultural interests (e.g., bamboo, the Great Wall of China, typical Chinatown apartments, etc.), and co-creating joint challenges/activities about these things with parents to study STEM

Minute 40:00 – engaging video of parents and teachers discussing “soups, and states of matter” and “air and water dynamics” and an example of how parents’ knowledge can be a generator of curriculum (making connections to their everyday lives), and not just as a ‘reinforcer’ of curriculum (beautiful summary at minute 43:40)

Minute 44:30 – Data from their study

Minute 49:00 – Summary of outcomes

CfA SED (2021)


So how will a framework like this improve reading achievement?

I wonder…

  • How many we use this framework to help us make foundational reading skills more culturally relevant?

  • Will students be better able to demonstrate what they know on state/provincial tests?

  • Will teachers feel more successful when their students and families are engaged, respected for their funds of knowledge, and more successful with learning?

  • What happens to equity when families cannot or choose not to participate? (i.e.: due to work demands, social pressures, etc)?

  • Will there be a ripple effect from grade to grade where knowledge is continually built?


Catts, H. W. (2022). Why state reading tests are poor benchmarks of student success. The Reading League Journal, 3(1), 15-23.

CfA Science Education Department (18, October, 2021). The Readiness through Integrative Science and Engineering (RISE) Project, Christine M. McWayne, PhD. Retrieved from

Mcwayne, C. M., Mistry, J., Brenneman, K., Zan, B., & Greenfield, D. B. (2020). A model of co-construction for curriculum and professional development in Head Start: The Readiness through Integrative Science and Engineering (RISE) Approach. Teachers College Record, 122(11), 1-46.

70 views0 comments


bottom of page