Shannon Watson reads the Lorax to kids at Reading College on Tuesday. The month long program helps kids who are behind their peers in reading and writing skills. (Photo by MURRAY CRAWFORD/Advocate staff)

Reading College aims to help Red Deer Grade 2 students graduate high school

Helping Grade 2 students improve their literacy is really a high school completion project, say organizers behind Reading College.

With 63 students in their sixth year, Reading College is in full swing again this July. The program, developed by The Foundation for Red Deer Public Schools, identifies struggling readers in Red Deer Public Schools at the end of Grade 2 and gets them reading for the month.

“We know one of the best predictors of high school completion is whether or not a student is reading at grade level by Grade 3,” said Bruce Buruma, the foundation’s executive director.

“If we want to make sure students are going to have a successful school career and we can provide some intervention and some support at this stage, then we improve their chances and their outcomes.”

Literacy skills are built in the program through reading and writing, but Buruma points to increasing student’s motivation to read as key to its success.

“Some of the students are at the point where they’re not enjoying reading, it’s a chore and a struggle,” said Buruma. “ We have the opportunity to inspire them to read.”

The students helped by the program can be as much as a year behind reading level. Buruma said, by keeping them in a “literacy rich environment,” over the summer it can help stave off a summer vacation regression.

“They have the opportunity to grow over the summer instead of regress,” said Buruma.

Taking into mind that it is summer, there are lots of activities that are fun and literacy related.

“They want to get better,” he said. “They’re still at that age where they’re excited about learning and we want to inspire them. They realize if they could just read better then school would be a better experience for them, they’d learn more and be a better student.”

Students are bused in daily to Red Deer College for the program. From 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. they teach reading, writing and phonics in different ways, all aimed at getting students excited about reading. During the day they are provided with breakfast, lunch and snacks.

Buruma said the program is made possible through community contributions. The Optimist Clubs of Central Alberta have been the founding sponsor, the Smile Cookie Campaign and some endowments have been established through the Chapman and Turple families.

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