Strathcona County Students Revved Up For Another Summer Reading Challenge

Popular Grade One Reading Kits support literacy in pivotal learning years

Strathcona County Library is tackling the summer slide — and it’s got nothing to do with playgrounds or lakes.

Rather, the “summer slide,” as referred to by the library’s Youth Services Manager Kerry Vandenhengel, is known among teachers and parents as a decline in reading ability if those skills are not kept up over the summer break.

“In the typical Grade 1 curriculum, students are just learning to read independently,” says Vandenhengel. “By Grade 2, they are expected to read in order to learn class material, which can be a tough transition for students that haven’t kept up their reading over the summer.”

Enter the Grade One Reading Kit program, which has been running strong at the Sherwood Park, Alberta-based library for more than 30 years — and encourages students to keep reading, and using the library, through the summer.

With funding provided by Enbridge, each kit includes a book that each child can keep. The library’s youth services team works hard to find the perfect books to include in the reading kits, and usually selects about 10 different books in both English and French. The kit also contains all kinds of goodies, such as an activity book, a bookmark, and small challenges and prizes.

Since 2015, Enbridge has provided $7,500 annually to Strathcona County Library to fund the purchase of books and bags for these Grade One Reading Kits. As part of our investment in quality of life in the communities where we operate, Enbridge has been a “partner in literacy” with the library for the past five years.

“The children are always excited every year to come collect their reading kits,” says Vandenhengel. “It’s satisfying knowing we are providing them with another book to add to their personal home library.”

Starting June 1 each year, Strathcona County Library hands out an average of 750 to 800 Grade One Reading Kits to students in Sherwood Park and rural Strathcona County. To Vandenhengel, the influx of Grade 1 students and their families coming through the library doors unofficially marks the beginning of summer.

Strathcona County Library provides programs and services for all ages in the community, made possible by over 100 staff. This also includes the Bookmobile, its library on wheels, that reaches rural areas surrounding Sherwood Park, which make up nearly a third of Strathcona County.

“For me, seeing that students are excited to read, and are actually doing so, tells me the program is achieving its goals,” says Vandenhengel. “Supporting children and their families in using the library enhances literacy and encourages lifelong learning.”