Palliser's literacy efforts continue through the summer

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Jennie Emery Vice Principal Kristi Van Doesburg provides some one-on-one assistance to a Summer Slide program participant at the Coaldale elementary school.

During the school year, Kristi Van Doesburg helps young students at Jennie Emery Elementary School find a little traction in their reading skills through her literacy intervention work. That’s why the vice principal was quick to volunteer – and give up some of cherished vacation time – to assist Palliser Regional Schools’ Summer Slide reading program.

Research has shown a lack of regular reading time over the summer can result in a child’s reading level deteriorating significantly. Palliser Regional Schools hired two university students through government funding to help reduce that impact this summer.

When 55 students registered for the optional , three-week program both Van Doesburg and her principal, Sherrie Nickel, offered their assistance at the Coaldale elementary school.

“From my teaching perspective I know the value of having the time to sit down with a student one-on-one every day and work on a skill,” says Van Doesburg, who’s seen first-hand the struggles some students have with reading at the beginning of a new school year. “Our hope with this program is that instead of kids sliding back that one level we can start them from where they left off, and they have the skills and strategies fresh in their head and they can just come in and be ready to learn.”

Palliser Director of Learning Laurie Wilson, who carried out a similar though smaller pilot project last summer, trained the Summer Temporary Employment Program (STEP) students in how to assess each participant’s reading level and strategies and fun activities to meet their individual learning needs.

Dayna Anwender and Sydney De Blois are working with students at both Jennie Emery – with the help of the two staff members – and Coalhurst Elementary School. Wilson is doing the same at Sunnyside, Huntsville and Champion schools and directed a couple of students to existing summer reading programs at the community library in the Milo/Arrowwood area.

Students committed to attend 90-minutes sessions, four days a week over a three-week period ending in mid-August. Each day included time reading aloud, one-on-one reading and a variety of fun literacy activities.

Children can work on words they found particularly challenging through hands-on activities like spelling them out in Play-Doh, or moving cut-out versions around other words to form sentences. Word games like “hangman” are available through devices including iPads and SMART boards, and students are encouraged to write on a subject of their choice in their journal.

 “I think students like that flexibility so let’s get them integrated into literacy in whatever way they feel comfortable,” says Van Doesburg. “There’s lots of choice, which I think is essential for students.”

The STEP students will assess each participant’s reading progress at the end of the program.

For more information on Palliser’s commitment to literacy, including a link for parents on resources available, go to

To view a video with tips for parents  to help their young reader this summer, go to

The first day of school for Palliser students is Sept. 6, 2016, with teachers back the week prior.