Like many, I have had a life long love affair with reading and books. In my youth the Vancouver elementary school I attended had a wonderful Librarian named Miss Stephens – whose exclusive job it was to oversee the school library and encourage reading and library use amongst the K-Grade 7 students. The school library was open 30 minutes before school, during recess, at lunch break, and for another 30 minutes after school. I read a lot of books in the school library – especially on days when a break from the playground was needed or sometimes if the wet west coast weather kept students indoors! Which it did a lot!
School libraries have evolved over the years. Reading as a life skill, provider of empowerment and for enjoyment such as the reading of a good book, magazine article or blog (haha) remains unchanged! Reading should be held in high regard. We need to share its importance and encourage it in others – especially children.
Today in Oakville Start2Finish charity is operating the Running and Reading Club at Oakwood Public School. The free weekly after school program provides elementary school aged children in low-income high needs communities with an opportunity to develop reading literacy and physical fitness skills through a dynamic and engaging program that kids really like!
Start2Finish’s weekly Running and Reading Club is a 32 week Sept.-May program lead by adult volunteers called Coaches in 33 elementary schools across Canada. At Oakwood Public School 60 students (with a waiting list) enthusiastically participate each week. Children thrive in the mentoring provided by the Coaches who are neither their parent or teacher but are trained volunteers who bring new energy and encouragement to children who have been identified as requiring additional reading literacy support.
Coaches and kids spend the first 45min. of the program running and doing running based activities often incorporating a reading literacy theme. The weekly running sessions build towards May of each year. In May, each child enrolled in the Running and Reading Club receives a brand new pair of running shoes and then participates together with approx. 2,000 other club members in a region wide 5km fun run day at York University.
Each week the running sessions are followed by Journal time. Program participants write reflections on their running in personal Journals – things like : I got tired or I’m getting better at running. The Word of the Day is also written in the personal Journal. This is followed by a healthy snack and break time to re-fuel participants for approx. 40min. of individual and group reading with their Coach. The Running and Reading Club provide their own books kept in storage bins for the program.They welcome donations of new quality children’s books to supplement their supply – enticing and encouraging developing readers with new reading materials.
The Start2Finish charity is the creation of former American (football scholarship University of Arizona) and later Edmonton Eskimo football player (1987), Brian Warren. Although Brian did not grow up in poverty he saw a great need to support youth living in poverty and find ways to help break the cycle of poverty for children and families. Here are some facts worth noting from the Start2Finish website:
Child Poverty, Literacy and Fitness in Canada:
- Almost 1 million children live in poverty in Canada today.
- There are many “working poor”. 40% of low-income children live in families where at least one parent works full-time year round, up from 33% in the 1990s.
- In 2001, teachers spent $143 million of their own money to buy books/reading materials for students.
- By the time they start school, children living in poverty are 4.5 times behind their peers in vocabulary development.
- The higher a nation’s literacy skills, the more likely its population is to have healthier habits and lifestyles.
- 75% of children from low-income homes do not participate in organized sports, compared to only one-quarter of other children.
- Children from low-income homes are twice as likely as children from middle-class homes to be living in neighbourhoods with violence, drug trafficking and vandalism as everyday occurrences.
Results are astoundingly positive for students who participate in the Running and Reading Club program. According to Start2Finish 87% of student participants stay at the same reading grade level or increase one to two grade levels at the end of the program. Teachers also note participants display greater reading confidence and a more positive attitude towards reading through participation in the program.
Physical fitness levels have also been measured and show dramatic increase in program participants. The basic ideals of support, encouragement, and mentoring play out in a very impactful way in this weekly program.
On Friday October 28th the 9th Annual Chuckles for Charity event is being held at The Oakville Centre for the Performing Arts with a reception before and after the event at Jonathan’s .This is the second year that Start2Finish has partnered with the Goddard Group Foundation and the majority of event proceeds donated to Start2Finish. Oakville businesses Budd’s , Goddard, Fahey, McCartney RBC Group Wealth Management , Barrington’s, M for Men ,Tocca Finita, Avis and Irish, Willson International and others are key founders and supporters of this event. Chuckles for Charity features two great comediens Bob Cates and Fred Proia , delicous food, an upscale live auction and raises valuable funds for Start2Finish. There are still some tickets available for the event! Please call Start2Finish to reserve.
On my recent visit to Oakwood Public School’s Running and Reading Club a young club member read the Word of the Day clue aloud to the group: A strong desire to learn, know, or discover – the kids all try to guess the Word of the Day. Of course they guessed it right away – curiosity ! Kids are naturally curious and the dedicated volunteers at Running and Reading Club nurture this in youth – right here in our community and in others across Canada who are most in need of support.
Please consider donating a new children’s book, financial assistance or volunteer your time to this important program. Another Oakville School will be starting a Running and Reading Club in January 2017.
Have a wonderful weekend lovely readers of OurTownO! Thank you for supporting reading literacy any way you can – especially in children!