There is no more important, longer-lasting, future-deciding issue than early education. - Saskatoon Public Schools Foundation
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There is no more important, longer-lasting, future-deciding issue than early education.

Alice Kuipers and Yann Martel believe in ensuring every student is set up for success. As authors, their books allow readers to experience the world though words. As parents, they understand the importance of early learning and literacy and the impact it has on individual students, schools, families, and society. That is why Alice is a co-chair of Saskatoon Public Schools Foundation’s Early Learning Equal Start initiative, a $20-million campaign designed to support students in achieving grade-level literacy by Grade 3.

In this Q&A, the couple shares why their support, and that of the entire Saskatoon community, is crucial in activating the potential in each student and creating a brighter future for our city and province.

Why do you support the Early Learning Equal Start (ELES) campaign?

Because for us, as a species, education is everything. As you are educated, so you will live. We think of education as cards in your hand. The more education you get, the more cards you have to play with.

Alice is one of the campaign co-chairs and you both share your individual public profiles in support of this initiative. Why is it important to go beyond being just donors or supporters?

We think giving becomes more real when you see who is involved, who is doing the giving.

Why is a commitment to literacy and providing students with the best support and resources important, particularly when it comes to early learning?

Quality early education — getting into those good, growth-mindset learning habits early on — increases your chances of having a fulfilling life where you chose who you want to become, where you want to go, what you want your life to be like. It’s at a young age that the longest lasting education happens. Learning to read and write, for example, isn’t just for writers; it’s for everyone. Anyone who can read easily and write clearly has an advantage not only at, say, getting a good job, but at being a happy, fulfilled person whose potential is unlocked.

The ELES campaign highlights that approximately 30 per cent of students were not reading at grade level by Grade 3. What was your reaction when you heard that statistic?

We were horrified. If you can’t read with ease, what chance do you have in our society? We live in a literate society. Writing is everywhere. On cereal boxes, on instruction manuals, on street signs. If you can’t read, you not only stifle the economic potential of a citizen, you frustrate their creativity and self-esteem, you cripple and stifle their very well-being.

What is your personal connection to Saskatoon Public Schools?

We have four children who are of school age. School is a big part of their lives, making them educated, empowered, fulfilled future citizens.

What encouragement would you offer to others in terms of supporting the campaign and/or becoming involved with Early Learning Equal Start?

If you care for the future of our province, for the well-being of its citizens, if you want to unlock the potential of those around you, then please support this campaign. There is no more important, longer-lasting, future-deciding issue than early education.

What kind of impact do you hope will result from Early Learning Equal Start and the related initiatives that the foundation undertakes to build literacy and support students?

We hope that it will make people aware of the importance of early learning, indeed, of education as a whole. If society exists for one single purpose, it is to educate its children and make for a better future in which everyone’s potential is released.