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Summer reading program thrives at Maskwacis Cultural College

A summer reading program hosted at Maskwacis Cultural College (MCC) is getting kids and their parents into books

A summer reading program hosted at Maskwacis Cultural College (MCC) is getting kids and their parents into books.

Over the last four years librarian, Manisha Khetarpal has collaborated with the TD summer Reading Club to get kids into reading and the college has collected thousands of books free to use.

Boxes of books line the walls of classrooms at MCC.

“Our goal is to keep our children connected with reading for 60 days, five minutes a day,” said Khetarpal.

Using the Cree word “Ayamitah,” which means, “let’s read together” the program has grown to involve Ponoka Elementary School (PES), the Montana School and MCC. The number of young readers who have joined the reading program has increased each year, partly through word of mouth promotions.

“We request people tell four other people about it,” said Khetarpal.

The program brings free books to the library and developed a “library in a box” for readers. Khetarpal said there are four parts to making the program work:

• The MCC gets books donated from many sources;

• Using the TD Summer Reading program has helped young readers and parents follow a reading list;

• Readers have web access to an online notebook to record notes and observations;

• Participants can read books from eReaders.

Working with the other schools has given participants a way to look positively at school as they record their reading minutes into their summer reading log, added Khetarpal.

She suggests the program has brought families together as “the individual gets more knowledge and is empowered.”

Maskwacis students at Montana School also receive the benefit of oral storytelling from Cree elders, which is an important part of indigenous learning, said Khetarpal.

Samson Cree Nation summer youth staff help ensure the program continues to run smoothly and Khetarpal said book donations and buddy readers ensure a fun experience for kids.

She said Ponoka’s Jimmy Rawji has volunteered his time as a reading buddy for the last four years and help from PES’s literacy support teacher Jennifer Parker has helped allow the program to thrive.

Khetarpal says anyone wishing to donate or become a reading buddy can contact the MCC. What Khetarpal hopes to increase is the number of books that have indigenous content.

“Indigenous content is important for non-indigenous people, too,” said Khetarpal.

Many books were provided by donations from Save the Children Canada and Scholastic Canada.