United Way Regina introducing literacy initiatives for school children this year

United Way Regina is taking part in a number of initiatives over the next year to help early childhood literacy rates in the city.

Amanda Lanoway, director of engagement with United Way Regina, said the city has partnered with the Campaign for Grade Level Reading Network (CGLR) in order to provide access to literacy supports for schools and community organizations.

“Education is foundational to preventing poverty, violence and crime; learning how to read is a critical piece of this education puzzle. The CGLR focuses on one factor which predicts school success better than all others: Grade 3 reading,” reads a statement by United Way Regina on the newly announced project.

Lanoway explained how these literacy initiatives are an effort to increase access to books and engagement with reading amongst the city’s youth. She said there is a staggering number of children who are not reading proficiently by Grade 3 in Regina.

“Of Regina’s 33,000 students, we know that 45 per cent enter into kindergarten not knowing their letters or numbers, 26 per cent cannot read proficiently by Grade 3 and 20 per cent of Grade 12 students do not graduate on time,” mentioned Lanoway.

“Research has shown that 75 per cent of students who struggle with reading in Grade 3 never catch up, are four times more likely to drop out of high school and are four times more likely to live in poverty.”

Some of the upcoming initiatives are scheduled for 12 Regina community schools over the next four years. Learn more about the projects with United Way Regina below.


Family Literacy Day

January 27, 2021 is officially proclaimed as Family Literacy Day!

Mayor Sandra Masters’ first official proclamation after taking office is Family Literacy Day. Her video proclamation will be available @UnitedWayRegina on social media that day.

As a city and a province, we are encouraging families to ‘travel the world’ together, celebrating the ability books have to transport us through our imaginations from the comfort and safety of our homes.

Join a journey to the Arctic through a reading by author Ruth Wellborn and her alliterative ABC book ‘Never Rub Noses with a Narwhal’. Details for the reading can be found here.

United Way Regina is host to the newly formed Regina Region Family Literacy Hub, a dedicated initiative aimed at raising awareness about the importance of early year’s development and
providing literacy-based support for families. As part of our Literacy Day celebrations, we deployed 150 literacy kits to Regina and Region communities.

Vello Technology in Schools

United Way Regina is very excited to introduce Vello into schools in Regina; the first city in Canada with this technology!

Vello is a 1-on-1 online tutoring program that makes volunteering easy. It connects passionate professionals with kids in their community to collaborate on reading growth in real-time. Vello students join from a secure computer inside their classroom.

Tutors and students connect through an audio and screen share in order to read e-books, complete comprehension quizzes and write summaries. Vello students then have access to an online library of over 2,500 books that they can access from school, or from home.

We are thrilled to be the first in Canada to introduce Vello into our schools, a milestone made possible with funding from BMO Bank of Montreal and technical support from Solvera Solutions.

Volunteers interested in virtual reading opportunities can learn more and sign up here.

Book Vending Machines

Move over sweet & salty snacks, the newest vending machines in four elementary schools dispense imagination and world travel, through books!

Albert Community School, Seven Stones Community School, St. Augustine Community School and Kitchener Community School are the lucky recipients of the exciting new Inchy the Bookworm Vending Machines in their hallways! These are the first four machines of their kind in Canada!

Working with school librarians, the vending machines are filled with books selected to fill an array of reading levels and cover a variety of topics. Tokens are awarded to students who display
kindness and respect, illustrate academic achievement, and/or demonstrate positive contributions to their classroom, school and community. These tokens are redeemable for books from the vending machine.

This all works to increase students’ access to books so they can build their home libraries and engage in reading more often; children learn to read by reading daily.

The machines will be leveraged as a pillar in the schools existing literacy support programming, building excitement in students around book ownership, independent reading and academic

This project would not be possible without the financial support and partnership of BMO, SaskPower and Conexus Credit Union who are placing book vending machines in the four
elementary schools in Regina prior to the end of this school year.

Dr. Seuss Reading Day

March 2nd is Dr. Seuss’ birthday, and every year we celebrate the amazing impact Dr. Seuss had on literacy and learning. This year, we will deliver 325 Seuss-themed literacy kits to students in 12 Regina community schools.

Our community is encouraged to participate in the funding of these kits, each $30 donation will gift a student with their very own Seuss kit filled with an assortment of literacy items including a
brand new book.

Blue Sky Financial Planning is challenging our community to rally to help reach our goal of 325 kits. For every $30 donation, Blue Sky Financial will match the donation up to a total of $10,000 to implement a classroom library!

Classroom Libraries

Unfortunately, socioeconomic factors can lead to tremendous disparities in community schools. Quite often, these schools have far fewer books and many teachers end up purchasing books
themselves in an attempt to level the playing field for their students.

Many students in our city do not have many books at home for reading practice, and access to books at school is key in their reading development. Each classroom library is an exciting area of the classroom dedicated to engaging students with books and reading. From bright colours to comfy chairs, the library quickly becomes a favourite place in the classroom.

Before the end of the school year in June, sixteen classroom libraries will be implemented in community schools in our city. These classroom libraries would not have been possible without the incredible support of the following funders:

• Wheaton Kia
• Wheaton Chevrolet
• Access Communications Children’s Fund
• G. Murrary & Edna Forbes Foundation at the South Saskatchewan Community
• SaskTel TelCare
• Kramer LTD Foundation Fund at the South Saskatchewan Community Foundation
• Women United (new affinity group of United Way Regina )

Before a classroom library was available, students received 30 minutes of reading time per week. After a classroom library opens, students receive 60 minutes per day of reading time. Given the
current COVID-19 restrictions, school libraries have been closed off to students.

Librarians do their best to circulate a selection of books to classrooms, but these books are then pulled out of circulation for a period of time. Classroom libraries have become even more valuable to students and teachers during these very challenging months.

More information about classroom libraries is available here.

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