Reading College helping struggling readers turn the page on their literacy skills

By Sheldon Spackman
July 12, 2018 - 2:48pm

An annual program aimed at improving the literacy skills of local Grade 2 students struggling to read is off to a strong start this month.

Red Deer Public School’s Reading College is held each July and this year is supporting 63 Grade 2 students in a literacy-rich environment where students can get excited about reading and writing outside their normal school setting.

Bruce Buruma, Executive Director, Foundation for Red Deer Public Schools says it’s a 20-day program held at Red Deer College at no cost to the district, with transportation and food for the students provided through the funding support of numerous community partners.   

“The Optimist Clubs of Red Deer have been huge supporters of the program from the beginning,” states Buruma. “Tim Hortons with the Smile Cookie campaign, that’s where the proceeds are going. We have individuals who have established endowment funds because of this, Prairie Bus Lines, Chartwell Food, they’re providing the food and the transportation for this program, so it is truly a community effort.”

Buruma says RDC is the right place to hold the Reading College program.

"Now that [the kids] are at the College, they realize what their future opportunities and potential are. Part of our program is going around the College and seeing the kinds of programs and the opportunities that are available for them there.”

He says the program is very important as reading levels at the end of Grade 3 can often be early predictors of how students do in high school.

“We know there are students struggling with reading and they just need that little extra boost and that’s really what Reading College is,” he explains. “We’re giving them a really great summer filled with a variety of different literacy activities. They’re also having a lot of fun and through that, we know that they’re going to go into Grade 3 in a much better position, ready to learn and inspired to read and write.”

Buruma says many parents often see an improvement in their child’s reading even in the early going each summer, a time when many kids often experience a regression in their reading and writing.

“It’s not just their skill levels but really I think more importantly, it’s their interest and motivation,” he adds. “We’ve got kids who are excited to be reading and writing and coming to Reading College in July. I think that’s a really big statement because these children should be out on summer holidays, yet they’re at the college, they’re being inspired to read and write and they’re excited about it.”

In the big picture of improving high school completion rates throughout the district, Buruma says the Reading College program plays a key role.

“In the early years, kids are learning to read,” he says. “After about Grade 3, they’re reading to learn and if they don’t have those foundation skills, school becomes much more difficult.”

Brenda Munro, Dean for the School of Continuing Education at RDC says their partnership with Red Deer Public Schools on this program is one they’re very excited about.

“We believe at RDC here that we want to engage our community and this is a place for everyone in our community to be engaged in education,” says Munro. “We’re starting young. We’re getting the Grade 2’s and Grade 3’s in, they’ll start in Reading College and we hope to see them in our teen and summer camps and then on into our programs and not just the children but their parents as well.”

Another key component to the arrangement says Munro is the work-integrated learning structure of the Reading College.

“This partnership allows six of our Education students that are graduating to work for four weeks with all of the students with experienced teachers to mentor them,” says Munro. “They get to meet the Superintendents of schools and other teachers and they get to learn about literacy and working with students and classroom management, so it’s really integrating what they learn in a classroom into practical learning experiences.”

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