Making learning fun is the goal of Reading College teacher Janna Armstrong, who’s helping boost the literacy of these Red Deer public school students to grade level before they hit Grade 3. (Photo by LANA MICHELIN/Advocate staff).

WATCH: Red Deer’s Reading College mixes learning with fun to give students a promising future

Public school program at RDC helps Grade-two-ers catch up on literacy skills

Reading and writing in a classroom doesn’t seem like a fun summertime activity — so why do 61 Grade-2 students seem so enthusiastic about Reading College?

Co-ordinator Elvy Goring said it’s because hiking, horticulture, crafts and games are incorporated into the Red Deer Public School District reading program, running this month at Red Deer College.

Educational researchers have discovered that children who are not reading at grade level by the end of Grade 3 have a higher rate of dropping out of high school, because they also struggle with social studies, science and math instructions, said Goring.

The Foundation for Red Deer Public Schools decided to do something about that. Seven years ago, the foundation sought community sponsorships, donations and gifts-in-kind to start helping students who, at the end of Grade 2, are needing extra help with literacy skills.

Goring said public school kids who are identified as struggling with reading and writing are bused to RDC for 20 days of additional learning in a program that’s quite unique in Alberta.

Since the teachers know regular classroom studies will make for an interminable summer for the youngsters, they make an effort to bring camp-like activities to Reading College.

Goring said students are rotated through theme rooms: Awesome Authors, Radical Readers and Word Wizards. They hear a motivational speech about writing by local author Sigmund Brouwer, decipher written clues to complete an outdoor scavenger hunt, and monitor cups they planted with grass seeds to write about the growth progress.

“We do three different projects every day,” said teacher Rita di Placido. The children are also sent home with “backpack buddies” that they take around the city and later write about their activities.

Student Damon Levitt said his favourite project was making a kite that’s printed with words describing him. His classmate, Mikaela Askin, enjoyed making bird feeders from instructions.

Kris Bill, whose son Dayne is bused to and from Reading College, appreciates that activity is encouraged, along with the learning. She said Dayne liked trying out virtual welding and riding a hovercraft made by RDC students.

Among the biggest supporters of the Foundation for Red Deer Public Schools’ Reading College program are the Red Deer Optimist Club, Tim Horton’s Smile Cookies campaign, and RDC — which provides free space.

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Reading College teacher Rita di Placido helps public school student Damon Levitt with his writing project. (Photo by LANA MICHELIN/Advocate staff).

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