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Reading University back in session for 11th year

Class is back in session for nearly 200 third grade students around Grande Prairie who are taking part in the 11th annual Reading University. Starting in 2009 with only 30 students, the size and scope change of the two-week reading program has a lot to do with how it’s run.

“The secret sauce is our student-teacher ratio, two teachers for every 10 children. [Also], our incredible leadership under Principal Helen Neufeld, and unique strategies that are not always feasible to implement in the parameters of a typical classroom environment,” says Co-founder Rhonda Side.

The program uses creative and interactive play, music, physical activity, and reading approaches to help better achieve literacy for those who may be struggling.

Side says the students involved in what she calls the potential life-changing program are selected by each school division. Adding they’re ones who are most at risk of not making the turn from learning to read, to reading to learn.

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“They’re the kids who fade to gray in the classroom, they’re the ones who may never reach grade level reading. They’re the ones who are at risk.”

One of the biggest changes to the program over the years is the awarding of a prize to former graduates of the program. In 2018, $2,500 was handed out to a student who was one of the first to use the program in 2009. They have since joined GPRC as a full-time student in the Bachelor of Arts University transfer program.

Teachers who take on the responsibility to help guide the students towards a better relationship with reading also have a hands-on approach with the curriculum. Side says it’s something which makes it a bit of a dream job for educators.

“It’s really engaging for the teacher as well. The teacher gets to do things they don’t’ get to do in the classroom because they don’t have the tools to do it.”

The graduating class of 2019 will finish off the program with a special graduation ceremony on July 19th.

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