LAC LA BICHE - As students across the Lakeland are gearing up for summer holidays, Grade 2 students at Vera M. Welsh School in Lac La Biche County will have an opportunity to participate in a free book subscription program to encourage learning during the break.
The Lac La Biche school is the recipient of funding from a partnership with the school division’s Successful Families, Successful Kids program and Lac La Biche Rotary Club that will see $4,500 donated by the club and school to provide reading books for 60 students. The new books will be mailed directly to the Grade 2 students every two weeks during the holiday. It’s a service that will allow children headed to Grade 3 next fall to get a head start, said Vera M. Welsh Principal Rob Wicker.
“The best part is that, thanks to the Lac La Biche Rotary Club, this program is completely free. Our primary goal for the program is to help maintain our students’ reading skills so they are reading as well or better next September as they are when the summer holidays begin,” Wicker told Lakeland This Week.
The youngsters will have an opportunity to select five books from a catalog of 40 fan favourites that include authors Robert Munsch and Mary Pope Osborne. All student who participate will receive credit for purchases of up to $75, and select a total of five books that will be mailed directly to their homes with a personalized message throughout the summer. Included in the package will also be an opportunity for parents and their children to correspond with school officials — in the form of a pen-pal from the Successful Families, Successful Kids program — about the books they are reading. Each child who writes back to their pen-pal about their books will be entered for a draw at the end of the program.
Encouraging youth to build their learning skills throughout the year is an important part of the program, says Sylvia Mickey, a Lac La Biche Rotary Club charter member, and former staff member at Vera M. Welsh School.
“It really stared from wanting to see kids read and do better and get that love of reading going when they’re young…Some of our members—myself included—we worked in the schools and we saw the value of having the kids' reading; the better they read, the better they could do in school,” she said.
The summer reading subscription project is just one of several campaigns supported by the Rotary Club. In recent years the Rotary’s ‘Birthday Book’ campaign that gives a new, free book to young students on their birthdays has been expanded to reach more classrooms. Increasing that reach and improving the awareness towards literacy is something the school and the Rotary continue to strive towards.
While this year's summer program is targeting and supporting Grade 2 classes, in the future with more funding and support organizers are looking to get more families and youth reading, said Mickey.
“The kids lose between two to three months of their reading level when they’re not reading over the summer, and if they’re are reading they can gain that back…We’re hoping to have more families and children reading together in the future,” she said.
The program has been offered in a similar format to the school in previous years, but this is the first time with the Successful Families pen-pal link and the prizes.
Whether the kids win prizes or not, Wicker says the program has already delivered a reward to the youngsters and their families.
“Everyone's a winner when it comes to summer reading,” he said.