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Mount Royal University embraces a love for reading

Goodnight Moon. The Very Hungry Caterpillar. Where the Wild Things are.

Calgary Reads Together 2012.

Just hearing those book titles engulfs many of us in a wave of nostalgia, connecting us to our childhood and a love of reading.

It is this passion for reading that Mount Royal University, in partnership with Calgary Reads, hopes to spark in young children attending the Calgary Reads Together event on Jan. 31, 2013 at Richmond School, from 1 to 2:30 p.m.

Jodi Nickel is an associate professor with Mount Royal’s Department of Education and Schooling. As the liaison between Mount Royal and Calgary Reads, and a former Grade 1 and 2 teacher, Nickel sees the importance of developing early literacy skills.

“The gap between struggling and strong readers widens over time and literacy is hugely correlated with life outcomes,” says Nickel.

“If you’re a strong reader you’re more likely to go to university, you’re more likely to have a better paying job, and you’re more likely to have a better quality of life.”

Calgary Reads Together

The collaborative relationship between Mount Royal and Calgary Reads began March 15, 2012 when Mount Royal faculty, staff and students, along with several Calgary Reads volunteers, shared the joy of reading with first and second grade students at Glenbrook Elementary School through a Calgary Reads Together Event.

The upcoming Calgary Reads Together Event on Jan. 31, which is sponsored by Mount Royal, demonstrates the University’s commitment to community responsiveness and will formalize the partnership between Mount Royal and Calgary Reads with the signing of an official Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) at the event.

Calgary Reads Together

Dozens of volunteers from Mount Royal and Calgary Reads will take to the floor of the Richmond School gymnasium and pull up a mat, pull out a good book, and read aloud to small groups of Grade 1 and 2 students.

The event will also feature guest readers Mount Royal President David Docherty, and former Mount Royal student and Olympic gymnastic champion Kyle Shewfelt. Every Grade 1 and 2 child from the school will get a book bag filled with several new books and Mount Royal souvenirs.

“It’s a reading party. It’s like a pep rally for literacy to get the kids excited reading and books,” says Nickel.
Experiential learning and teaching collide

Arising out of the Mount Royal/Calgary Reads partnership is an invaluable experiential learning opportunity for Mount Royal students. Starting January, the Calgary Reads @ School Tutoring Program will become integrated into the curriculum for second year students enrolled in the Bachelor of Education — Elementary program.

“For one thing, they’re [MRU students] going to be teachers and so this gives them incredible insight into how children learn to read. They’ll understand how children learn to read in ways that a course alone couldn’t provide,” says Nickel.

“It’s also about how university students can give back to the community by helping to develop a child’s early literacy skills, so it’s a win-win.”

Working in pairs, 27 students from Nickel’s The Learner: Language Development and Literacy (EDUC 2371) course will be placed in schools participating in the Calgary Reads tutoring program.

In addition to theoretical instruction received in class, the students will be trained as Calgary Reads tutors to work one-on-one with fledgling Grade 1 and 2 readers for the entire semester, with each student tutoring 40-minute sessions twice a week. At the project completion, each Mount Royal student will write a case study about the children’s literacy development.

Making a difference

Martha Taylor, a development officer with the Mount Royal University Foundation, volunteered at last year’s Calgary Reads Together event, and has signed up to share the joy of reading with children once again this year.

“One of the most amazing memories I have of when my kids were little was when we used to read to them. I firmly believe that reading stories to and with children is an incredible foundation for lifelong learning,” says Taylor.

“On a personal level, it’s so much fun to connect with kids and read with them. Since this is an event specifically sponsored by Mount Royal, I think it’s a wonderful way to connect with the community and it’s just another feather in the University’s cap.”

With approximately 60 Grade 1 and 2 students expected to attend the Calgary Reads Together event, there are still opportunities for Mount Royal faculty, staff and students to help encourage a child’s love for reading.

For more information, or to become a volunteer reader at the event, contact Jodi Nickel.

— Jondrea De Ruyter, Jan. 17, 2013