Heather Hort ices a tray of cookies Wednesday at Tim Hortons. Hort was one of 63 Reading College graduates this summer. (Photo by MURRAY CRAWFORD/Advocate staff)

Smile campaign underway in Red Deer

What does a parent do when the Reading College program strengthens their son’s reading skills?

Buy cookies for an entire school.

That’s what happened at Joseph Welsh Elementary School on Tuesday. The parent called to ask how many staff and students were at the school and then purchased 380 Smile cookies from Tim Hortons, one for everyone.

The reason behind the generosity was their son’s success at Reading College, a month long program held every summer at Red Deer College for students between Grades 2 and 3. The program targets students who are behind their expected grade level reading and writing skills.

Bruce Buruma, Foundation for Red Deer Public Schools executive director, said the program greatly improves students knowledge.

“In the early years, students are learning to read and in the later stages they’re reading to learn,” said Buruma. “If they don’t have those foundational skills, it’s really going to impact how well they do in school.

“Reading College makes a big difference.”

Every year, Time Hortons donates a dollar from the sale of smile cookies towards Reading College and last year $40,000 was raised through the campaign. On Wednesday, eight Reading College graduates went to the Bower Plaza Tim Hortons for a chance to decorate smile cookies.

“We increase their reading and writing skills,” said Buruma. “But probably more importantly we increase their interest and motivation to read and write. That’s so essential for them to be successful in the schools.”

Reading College is a project run by the Foundation for Red Deer Public Schools. This year, 64 students were a part of the July program and 63 of them successfully completed the program.

The program relies on community donations to operate.

“Soon that struggle becomes a lack of interest or motivation to come to school,” said Buruma. “One of the biggest predictors of high school completion is whether or not a child is at reading level at the end of Grade 3. If we can make a difference early in life, that’s going to have a long term impact on their success.”

The program runs for a month in the summer, Monday to Friday from 8:30 a.m. to 3 p.m. at no cost to the parents.

The smile cookie campaign goes until Sept. 17.

mcrawford@reddeeradvocate.com

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