Experiences from conception to age six have the most important influence of any time in the life


MELT - Maritime Early Literacy Team Evaluation of Newborn Family Literacy Programs in the Maritime Provinces

Project Summary

The Maritime Early Literacy Evaluation Team (MELT) will be exploring the impacts of literacy programs delivered to families of newborns. Researchers will work with the Read to Me (Nova Scotia), Born to Read (New Brunswick; Charlottetown, PEI), and Little Readers (Summerside, PEI) programs to study the impacts of these programs, which are designed to increase literacy by encouraging parents to read with their infants. The project will involve eight locations throughout the Maritimes (Halifax, Sydney, Yarmouth, Charlottetown, Summerside, Fredericton, Saint John and Woodstock) over the next three years and includes four studies.  Funding for this project is provided by  a $300,000 research grant from the Canadian Institutes of Health Research (CIHR).
Study1 and Study 2 are surveys of the impacts of the programs (short-term and lasting) with quantitative items measuring the implementation of the programs (e.g., ratings of content, delivery method, timing). Study 3 focuses on implementation and employs qualitative approaches, filtering the analyses through various lenses appropriate to our population (e.g., gender, social and economic exclusion). Fathers (defined as an individual who the mother identifies as the father figure closest to her child or a secondary caregiver, not necessarily the biological father) will be included in each part of the evaluation.Study 4 is a cost analysis for the three programs.

Goals and Objectives

Through this study, researchers hope to better understand how early reading programs influence reading by parents with their newborns. The long-term objective of the study is to examine how these programs impact children’s reading readiness when they enter school. Children who are ready to read often have better outcomes beyond literacy, including, potentially, better health across their lifespan.

Team Members

Academic Researchers


Principal Investigator:

Nicole Letourneau, PhD RN 
Professor, Faculty of Nursing 
University of Calgary 

Principal Investigator:

Pam Whitty, PhD 
Director Early Childhood Centre
Faculty of Education,University of New Brunswick


Patrick McGrath, PhD 
IWK Health Centre
Centre for Research in Family Health
Halifax, Nova Scotia

Doris Gillis, PhD 
St. Francis Xavier University
Human Nutrition
Antigonish , Nova Scotia

Hélène Deacon, PhD 
Dalhousie University
Psychology Department
Halifax, Nova Scotia

Kim Critchley, PhD 
University of Prince Edward Island
School of Nursing
Charlottetown, PEI 
kcritchley@upei.ca kcritchley@upei.ca

Barbara Campbell, PhD 
University of Prince Edward Island
Webster Centre for Teaching and Learning
Charlottetown, PEI 

Carla Digiorgio, PhD 
University of Prince Edward Island
Faculty of Education 
Charlottetown, PEI


Progress to Date

Study 1 involves two parts; a pre-natal survey and a survey for parents of children 8 – 16 months old.  

The first part of the study (Study 1A) has been implemented. In this survey, the researchers collected data from expectant parents within the Maritime Provinces (New Brunswick, Nova Scotia and Prince Edward Island) to find out their values around literacy and their intentions towards activities that promote literacy (e.g. reading, singing and storytelling).  Contact with these parents occurred through programs such as pre-natal classes, baby clinics etc. and public advertising.  The parents were asked to complete a consent form which also indicated their agreement to be re-contacted for the second part of the study (Study 1B) and a short survey.  Participants had a secondary option to complete these forms online by accessing this website.


The second part of the study (Study 1B) involved re-connecting with the participants from Study 1A when their child is 8-16 months old to determine post-intervention impacts (e.g., a change in ratings of importance of reading to infant/child, knowledge/use of literacy resources available in the community referred to in the Book Giveaway bag.)  Researchers are conducting telephone interviews across the region and asking parents to complete a similar questionnaire as in Study 1A along with some additional parenting styles questions.   A control group of parents who did not participate in any early literacy program or receive a book giveaway arel also being recorded to use as a comparison.

For more information or to receive updates on this project, please contact the Project Director, Jennifer Phillips at 506-452-6060 or 1-888-538-6988 (toll free) or jap@unb.ca.