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For the love of literacy: program for first graders aims to foster an appreciation for reading

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The small window of time where children learn to read is nothing short of magical. They begin with recognizing letters and progress to sounding out words. Finally, they gain the ability to discover new perspectives and worlds—all on their own. While for some literacy is picked up easily, others need a little extra help.

For students who need targeted literacy support over the summer, the District offers Rec & Read, a program designed for students in Grade 1 transitioning to Grade 2. As its name would suggest, one half of the day is spent on activities to boost literacy skills, the other half is spent participating in recreational activities with local community partners.

During the reading part of the program, students participate in small group learning stations that support different aspects of literacy development. At the story workshop station, they use loose parts (pipe cleaners, buttons, beads, and other items found in nature) to build a story. After their creation is complete, they practice their oral skills by telling a story that incorporates the piece they have created, then they the write out their story. Through the story workshop, students apply many different elements of the First Peoples Principles of Learning.

According to Christine Macer, Manager of Community School Teams, the recreation component for Rec & Read is supported through a grant provided by the United Way of BC. Programming is facilitated by community-based organizations that have the capacity and expertise to provide developmentally appropriate social recreational opportunities for students. The recreational activities students participate in include games in the gym and outdoors as well as trips to their local Vancouver Public Library branch. “The recreational programming balances out the literacy programming and supports areas like belonging, community connectedness and access to activities that students may not normally have access to,” says Macer.

This year, roughly 200 students participated in Rec & Read program at eight schools. Rec & Read, which is referral based, helps students to gain literacy skills at a pivotal time, Grade 1 is the year where students are encouraged to begin reading independently.

“They don’t get this experience during the school year,” says Rec & Read principal, Stella Lee. She explains that younger students benefit not only from the program’s teachers, but also from student leaders who volunteer to facilitate reading stations and provide mentorship for their younger peers. The student leaders also gain invaluable leadership skills. “Younger children often benefit from learning from someone a little closer to their age. The relationship building and individualized support can be crucial to helping students learn,” says Lee. “When they are connected to someone they look up to, you see them really blossom.”

At the end of the program, students each receive a book chosen specifically for them by staff to add to their home libraries. This year, the program received a $500 grant from First Book Canada for the purchase of these books. With early and targeted intervention through Rec & Read, reluctant readers get a little nudge towards a lifelong love of literacy.

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