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What is Reading University?

Reading University is a four-week summer program intended to increase the literacy skills of children in Grades 2 and 3 who are not yet reading at grade level.

Reading University was first offered in Camrose in the summer of 2009. From 2010 to 2012, Reading University was offered in both Camrose and Tofield and from 2013 to 2015 the program was offered in Camrose and Killam. For the first time, in the summer of 2016, three Reading University campuses were available, in order to make the program accessible to all students throughout Battle River School Division at the same time.

In addition to being beneficial to children struggling with literacy, Reading University is an excellent example of partnerships – local organizations working together for the long-term benefit of children and society. The three biggest partners are Battle River Community Foundation, Battle River School Division and the Augustana Campus of the University of Alberta. Other organizations, including the local Adult Read and Write program and the Science Alberta Foundation, as well as individual volunteers, have also contributed in important ways.


Why was the decision made to Offer Reading University?

The Battle River Community Foundation believes that the future of local communities lies in creating a strong base and providing opportunities for citizens of all ages to succeed. R.U.’s two educational partners -- Battle River School Division and the Augustana Campus of the University of Alberta -- believe that education should always foster the desire to learn more, so students will develop the skills they need to adapt to an ever-changing world. The world is definitely changing. Recent research from North American labour experts indicates that:

• today’s college graduates will have 10 to 14 jobs by the time they are age 38;
• 1/3 of the jobs today’s students will have in their lifetime do not currently exist.

All of the stakeholders in this project believe that, in order to meet the challenges of a changing world, students need to be literate. They also know that literacy is more than reading, writing and basic sums. Literacy enables people to learn and comprehend, think critically, solve problems, share information and interact effectively with others – all important skills for life and career success.

Research indicates that children spend their early school years (grades 1 to 3) learning basic literacy skills. After grade 3, they use those literacy skills to learn everything else. Statistically, children who do not read at grade level by the end of grade 3 get further and further behind in subsequent grades. They rarely close the gap and are at higher risk for dropping out of high school. sic sums. Literacy enables people to learn and comprehend, think critically, solve problems, share information and interact effectively with others – all important skills for life and career success. Research indicates that children spend their early school years (grades 1 to 3) learning basic literacy skills. After grade 3, they use those literacy skills to learn everything else.

Statistically, children who do not read at grade level by the end of grade 3 get further and further behind in subsequent grades. They rarely close the gap and are at higher risk for dropping out of high school.



How did Reading University get started?

In 2009, the Battle River Community Foundation became aware of a program being offered in the state of Indiana that was designed to increase the literacy skills of young students.

Representatives of BRCF approached the Battle River School Division, to see if the two organizations could work together to bring a similar program to life in the local area. It wasn’t long before the university campus joined the conversation and an exciting new partnership was born, with each of the three main players taking on a different role:

  • The school division took responsibility for designing an educational program; recruiting and paying staff; and inviting the appropriate children to participate.

  • The community foundation committed to matching funds contributed by the school division.

  • The university committed to providing space and meals for participants.

The guiding beliefs

The organizing groups share several common principles and beliefs, which continue to form the core of how Reading University is organized:

  • The program must be educationally sound.

  • The program must be targeted at those who need an extra “boost” in order to become literate;

  • Children must be made to feel they are participating in something special and exciting, that is not available to everyone;

  • Reading University must include learning opportunities that the children involved may not otherwise be able to experience;

  • Student attendance must be a priority – families must commit to the entire four-week program;

  • All common barriers to a child attending and benefiting from Reading University must be removed. This includes:
    • Providing transportation to and from the program;
    • Ensuring meals and snacks are available;
    • Covering all costs, so no child's family is asked to contribute financially.

Working Together To Make It Happen

In the beginning, the Battle River Community Foundation, in its role as a supporter of community projects, brought the Reading University idea to the Battle River School Division. Today, the two organizations are 50/50 financial partners and contribute equally to the cost of Reading University.

Included in the school division’s costs are salaries and benefits for teachers, educational assistants and bus drivers; as well as the costs of transporting students.

The Battle River Community Foundation raises its share with the help of generous and supportive members of the local community. Their contributions cover the cost of meals and field trips, as well as classroom supplies and items such as backpacks and t-shirts students can take home to keep.

In Tofield and Killam, students attend “university” in their local school, but also make weekly trips to visit the University of Alberta Augustana Campus in Camrose.

The University of Alberta, Augustana Campus, in Camrose, welcomes the Camrose students to their campus each summer and ensures that learning spaces are available in the Library.

Augustana also provides lunch-time supervisors and provides nutritious meals and snacks through their cafeteria.

On graduation day, all students and families gather at the university campus for a graduation ceremony that includes the presentation of certificates by the Dean, resplendent in his academic robes.

Other agencies, such as the Camrose Adult Read and Write Program and the Camrose Adult Learning Council also got on board in the first year, and helped with volunteer recruitment and training; as well as providing resource materials and books. In subsequent years, a “tips and ideas” night has been offered to parents, to give them new strategies for helping their children read at home.


"Report Card" The Results

In eight years, about 400 local children have participated in Reading University. All indications are that the program has been a great success. Evaluation shows that student reading levels do increase and that students are retaining their new skills long after the month long program has ended. But, more importantly, parents, teachers and students themselves can see the results.

From parents . . .“We have noticed (our son) reading signs, the guide on the TV and items in the store. He couldn’t do that before.”

“(My daughter) would get frustrated while reading. It seems to me she feels more confident and applies herself more.”

“I’ve watched him sound out words at home in the evenings this month and today he helped read a poem out loud in front of a whole group. I can’t even tell you what that means to me.”

“(My daughter) is so much more confident.She’ll pick up a book on her own now. She even wants to go to the library!”

“Thank you! Thank you! What a wonderful program.”

From volunteers . . . “I love reading and encouraging a love of literacy. It was a wonderful experience for me. I hope that I left the students empowered to explore and enjoy reading.”

“I’ve been talking to everyone about what a wonderful program this is. It was a total package for student learning. I hope this program can continue -- our kids are worth the investment.”

From staff . . . Every student in my group moved up at least three reading levels.”

“I am a great supporter of Reading University and its goals and mission. I have had several students attend this program and they report to me that it was enjoyable and they now like reading more. I am also aware that the instructors of this program are professional teachers thus we can be assured that curriculum outcomes and reading strategies used in the classroom are being reinforced over the summer months.”

“I believe that our reluctant and struggling readers will start to more often choose literacy and reading activities the more they believe they can have success in those endeavors. Reading University helps them to feel successful. It is my hope, professionally and personally, that this program will continue.”

“I think the field trips were great because they allowed the kids to go to places where some will never go again.”

“Students in my group really needed positive reinforcement to help build their confidence. Their reading and comprehension increased from three to six levels. But many were desperately looking for someone to connect to.”

“I liked the fact that there was a teacher and an aide for every 8 to 9 students, as well as support from community volunteers.”

“I would definitely say that Reading University is a big help to students who struggle with reading. As teachers, we so appreciate this being offered, so that we can suggest this as support to our students who might otherwise take a dip in their reading skills over the summer.”

“Confidence and motivation are the most recognizable traits that students have brought back to school with them this year.”

From the students . . . 
"Eating in the cafeteria was cool." 


"My favorite part was riding on the school bus. That was awesome."

"I liked meeting some other kids."

"I didn't like reading. But then I 
learned that you could use the computer to read books. I read so many books this month!" 


"I learned about maps."

"We did a lot of different things."

"I'm going to do better in school now."

"I like it that my Mom wants to read with 
me now." 


"I didn't know you had to read to be a pilot or a policeman. But you do."

"I had fun."

 

 

 
Battle River Community Foundation | info@brcf.ca | 780.679.0449 | PO Box 1122, Camrose, AB T4V 4E7