Sixty-four Grade 2 students tossed their graduation caps in the air, as the 10th year of Reading College came to a close Friday.
Since Reading College’s inception, 500 central Alberta students have graduated through the program, which aims to support literacy and help children who are struggling with reading and writing.
The annual program went virtual last year due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
“This all started over a conversation in a school library over a brown paper bag lunch with members of the optimist club. We said, ‘This is an idea we have.’ They jumped aboard right away,” said Bruce Buruma, Foundation for Red Deer Public Schools executive director.
“We actually touched base with some of our first-year Reading College students, who are now in high school, and talked to them about it. They recognize that it did have an impact on them.”
Buruma said one of the “best predictors” of high school completion is whether or not a student is at the grade level for literacy at the end of Grade 3.
“These students (at Reading College) would be up to a year behind in their reading levels and with that, over the summer we can actually make enough of a difference so they can catch up. As they start Grade 3, with greater confidence, our hopes are we help them graduate,” he said.
“It’s so important we have this opportunity available for 64 students, who themselves recognize they were struggling with reading and writing.
“Honestly a lot of students regress (over the summer) because they don’t read, they don’t write, they don’t do those things. The fact that these students have been engaged in a literacy-rich environment of the entire summer has been great.”
Students spent their time learning at the Gary W. Harris Canada Games Centre during the 20-day program, but the graduation was held in the Red Deer Polytechnic gymnasium. It’s important to link Reading College with the post-secondary institution because it helps get the students focused on graduation, said Buruma.
“We want these students to graduate from our schools and we want them to think about the possibilities down the road,” he said.