Monday, October 20, 2008

Reading challenge set to promote literacy across the province

Reynolds students Bret Enemark, 16, and Anna-Maria Trudel, 15, and
librarian Karen Lindsay prepare for the DEAR Challenge.
Debra Brash, Times Colonist

Victoria Times Colonist: 2008 October 20
Jeff Bell

Karen Lindsay is an easy person to read. She loves books, and she loves seeing people use them.

Lindsay, a teacher-librarian at Reynolds Secondary School and vice-president of the B.C. Teacher-Librarians' Association, is leading local efforts in a provincewide push to establish a special day when literacy and reading take centre stage.

The day's big event is being called the DEAR Challenge, short for Drop Everything and Read. Lindsay and her colleagues around B.C. are challenging everyone, from school communities to businesspeople to MLAs, to take 20 minutes out of their schedules on Oct. 27 and relax with some reading material. The occasion corresponds with National School Library Day.

The DEAR project, based on an idea from a teacher-librarian in Surrey, was started last year on a trial basis and was popular with students, Lindsay said.

"This year, we've worked on it a whole lot harder, and it's starting to develop a life of its own. There's a blog on it and there's a Facebook page on it, and there are lots of members on both.

"The big deal for me is the idea of taking it into the public. The government has said that it wants to make B.C. the most literate jurisdiction in Canada, and I just think this is a simple little idea that models something for kids. I get a feeling of purpose and peace when I think about it."

Schools throughout the Greater Victoria school district will be taking part, Lindsay said, and she would like to see things extend as far as possible into the wider community.

"I have a fantasy in my mind where you might call your real-estate office and there's just a message saying 'We've dropped everything and we're reading right now, if it's an emergency call this cell phone number'."

Beyond that, Lindsay envisions other provinces joining in, and B.C. emerging as the champion in a national DEAR event.

Most schools will have their Oct. 27 reading session at 11 a.m.

Reynolds will be a major participant, of course. Lindsay said the school already does something similar with daily "silent reading" times.

"The staff has become creative around the silent reading. Some of them, instead of having silent reading, might have kids bring in poetry or short stories that they love. The teacher might read to them or they might read to the class, and some people have even talked about getting an author in."

Lindsay said studies clearly show that daily silent reading improves vocabulary, spelling, comprehension and much more. Students thrive on having the chance to sit down and read "away from the threat of tests and questions," she said.

Asked if she had any recent favourites on her own bookshelf, Lindsay was quick to answer The Secret Life of Bees, a novel by Sue Monk Kidd set in the civil-rights era in the United States. A movie based on the book was released last week.

"I read it this summer, and it was so important to me that I intend to reread it once a year until I'm tired of it," Lindsay said.

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