Posted on April 29, 2010 by Tia Lalani

Reading University is a summer program at Augustana to help young readers get the basics they need in order to succeed. July 5-30

What is Reading University?

Reading University is a summer literacy program designed to help young readers get the basics they need in order to succeed at school and beyond. The program is open by special invitation to children in Grades 2 and 3 in the City of Camrose and in the Tofield attendance area, who need extra time and support to increase their basic literacy skills.

It is an intense one-month program which emphasizes literacy skills of all kinds – reading, writing, comprehension, mathematics – using a variety of educationally sound techniques. The program is designed to be interesting, engaging and fun, to help children not only enhance their skills but become more excited about the process of learning.

Reading University ran for the first time in Camrose, Alberta in 2009 and will be offered again in July of 2010. This year, the program will also have a satellite campus in Tofield, Alberta.

What do students do there?

Reading University is offered by certified teaching staff. Each “class” numbers about 12 and each teacher is supported by an educational assistant, so there are two adults for every 12 children. The teaching program is based on grade 2 and 3 curriculum, to ensure that students are focused on skills that are aligned with their “regular” school experience. Teaching staff make use of such early literacy resources as Reading A – Z, and the Scholastic early years learning program Literacy Place. Each of the program’s weeks features different themes, such as mystery / adventure; story writing and telling; history; fact and fiction; and more. The goal is to broaden children’s basic literacy skills; provide a range of experiences that meet their different learning styles; and increase their engagement in learning by offering a program that is interesting, fun and educationally sound.

The themes are supported by activities that range from reading books to playing word games; computer-based activities; creating and acting out skits; using recipes to prepare treats; attending live theatre; drawing pictures and writing captions; using maps and reading signs to plan routes for visits to museums or airports; and much more. All aspects of the day are included in the program, from bus transportation in the morning and evening to snacks, lunch and the cost of field trips. Students even receive t-shirts, backpacks and books to keep. All of these components are intended to even the playing field for students and their families and ensure that financial considerations do not stop any child from participating.

Where is Reading University held?

Reading University is offered at the Augustana Campus of the University of Alberta. Students make use of the library and computer lab space at the site. In 2009, students and their parents told us that being “at university” provided additional inspiration and motivation, as well as gave them a sense that, one day, they could return as university students. Participants at the Tofield Campus will travel to Augustana on a regular basis, to ensure they also receive that “university experience”.

Does Reading University work?

The 2010 edition of Reading University will be backed by the success we experienced in our inaugural year. At the end of 2009, there were a variety of positive results.

After the 2009 program, a significant number of parents told us that offering these components made it possible for their child to attend. We also noted that absentee rates during the 2009 program were very low.

In one group of participants, every student increased their reading skill by at least two levels. In another group, memberships in the local library doubled. In addition, follow up work has been done to see if the changes students experienced have made a difference to them during the current school year.

Teachers have told us that they can see a distinct difference in students who were struggling last year and then attended Reading University. They mention increased ability, but also increased engagement and enthusiasm for both reading and for school in general. In the case of some students, teachers also mention increased levels of confidence.

Want to be part of it?

There is space in the program for adult volunteers to join the fun by reading to students during the afternoons. If you’d like to be part of this summer adventure in literacy, contact Diane Hutchinson at Battle River School Division, 780‐672‐6131 or dhutchinson@brsd.ab.ca.


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