Eighteen students at Avondale School in Grande Prairie are getting a little extra help with reading. What started last spring as an after-school program has now expanded to a twice a week program that gives children from First Nations, Metis and Inuit backgrounds one on one reading time with a volunteer.

Frontier College Community Coordinator Janine Kozlowski says the program was brought to Avondale because Alberta Education saw a need to offer some help to children from those backgrounds.

“Alberta education identified that group because there are some academic achievement gaps there in reading and also in high school drop out rates. If we can get in early, work with these students and build their confidence they have a real higher success rate.”

Volunteers are paired with a child in grades 1 to 4 that have fallen behind the rest of their class in reading. They meet with that student until they get caught up. At that point, the student graduates and another is brought in. Principal Kristina Black says the program has allowed her students to get the one on one help they need.

“In this program, it’s not even just a small group where they get to work on those skills but it’s really tailored for them because they can work just one on one which is amazing. We don’t often have the ability in a classroom setting… to have that one on one intervention.”

Volunteer Joyce Bjerke meets with grade three student Tanis twice a week. She says it’s been a great experience so far for both her and her reading buddy.

“It’s quite rewarding to see the changes and even being one on one with them they feel more comfortable, at first they were nervous but I certainly see an increase in her reading skill. It’s come a long way and I think that’s very exciting and rewarding for myself.”

Currently, the program is being run in Avondale and at Mother Teresa Catholic School. Both Black and Kozlowski hope to keep the program running next year and possibly expand into more schools.