Liam Ouellette, a Grade 5 student who just started at Horse Lake Elementary School this year, reads from Tom Gate’s Top. Ouellette prefers comedic novels when reading and enjoys their ability to help him escape from the real world. (Patrick Davies photo - 100 Mile Free Press)

Liam Ouellette, a Grade 5 student who just started at Horse Lake Elementary School this year, reads from Tom Gate’s Top. Ouellette prefers comedic novels when reading and enjoys their ability to help him escape from the real world. (Patrick Davies photo - 100 Mile Free Press)

Reading, literacy opens doors to learning

Students at Horse Lake Elementary School seek out challenging reads.

Students at Horse Lake Elementary School aren’t just encouraged to read more challenging books but they actively seek them out.

This is thanks in part to the school’s Accelerated Reader Program, an individualized reading program for grades 2-7 that allows students to read books at their level of ability. The program is run by Grade 4-5 teacher Michael Davidson, who first became involved with the program while working at 100 Mile Elementary. They are among the few schools that still offer the program.

“Basically what it is, is the kids just read books and they can take a test on the computer on the book. Just multiple-choice questions just to see their comprehension level of the book that they’re reading,” said Davidson, who worked in SD27 for 30 years. “From the kids’ point of view, they like to do it because it’s kind of the one time where they actually like taking tests. Every day some of them will come and ask me if they can do a test.”

This term, Davidson said he started off by having meetings with all the students and setting goals to earn points, which they receive by completing a number of books and tests, by the end of the term. He said it’s fired them up and given them the motivation to read more and push their boundaries.

Two of these students are Grade 5 student Liam Ouellette and Grade 4 student Trigg Jansen. Liam just started at Horse Lake Elementary this year, after moving to the area from Surrey with his family to buy their own house. Trigg, meanwhile, has been attending Horse Lake “all the years” he’s been in school and said he enjoys its vibe.

“I like reading books because they’re just interesting,” Trigg said. “They’re fun to read.”

When it comes to genre, Trigg prefers action and adventure, His current favourite book is Wild Life by Cynthia DeFelice, a story about a boy befriending a dog and running away from home to live in the wild. Trigg said he doesn’t know what reading level he’s at exactly and instead just reads “whatever he wants.”

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“Instead of dealing with reality you can just go wherever you want, you don’t have any limitations. It’s a book, it’s fun most of the time,” Liam said, adding his favourite genres are comedy and his favourite book series is Diary of a Wimpy Kid.

Liam said learning how to read from a young age is valuable because when you get older you’ll have to read documents – such as when you buy a house. In his opinion, if you don’t understand what you’re reading you won’t know what you’re doing. Trigg agreed and said reading not only helps them learn but also have fun.

For the teachers, meanwhile, it allows them to see where their students are on an individual basis and figure out the best way to teach them. Davidson also encourages his students to read just as much at home as they do at school and said that the parents seem to be just as responsive to the program as their children

Students in kindergarten and Grade 1 don’t partake in the program, but Davidson said students in Grade 2-7 are encouraged to participate. Davidson said he often has students asking to scan books’ barcodes to find out if they’re in the AR system, which he thinks shows how enthusiastic they are.

“I just think reading is critical for just about every subject in school and for their learning now and beyond. To be able to get them to not only be good at it but like it and enjoy it will help springboard their learning into high school and beyond, they’re going to be just that more successful,” Davidson said. “Reading just opens the door to so much more out there to learning.”

Davidson hopes that the program continues to enjoy the support from both parents and the school, noting it has been dropped at other schools. That’s unfortunate, he said, as he finds it a “super valuable tool” that’s proven to be effective.

Trigg agreed. “Everybody should read.”


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Liam Ouellette, a Grade 5 student who just started at Horse Lake Elementary School this year, reads from Tom Gate’s Top. Ouellette prefers comedic novels when reading and enjoys their ability to help him escape from the real world. (Patrick Davies photo - 100 Mile Free Press)

Liam Ouellette, a Grade 5 student who just started at Horse Lake Elementary School this year, reads from Tom Gate’s Top. Ouellette prefers comedic novels when reading and enjoys their ability to help him escape from the real world. (Patrick Davies photo - 100 Mile Free Press)

Trigg Jansen reads The Guardian of the Realm in Horse Lake Elementary’s reading room. (Patrick Davies photo - 100 Mile Free Press)

Trigg Jansen reads The Guardian of the Realm in Horse Lake Elementary’s reading room. (Patrick Davies photo - 100 Mile Free Press)

Grade 5 student Liam Ouellette and Grade 4 student Trigg Jansen read together in Horse Lake Elementary School’s reading room. (Patrick Davies photo - 100 Mile Free Press)

Grade 5 student Liam Ouellette and Grade 4 student Trigg Jansen read together in Horse Lake Elementary School’s reading room. (Patrick Davies photo - 100 Mile Free Press)

Michael Davidson is in charge of running Horse Lake Elementary School’s beloved Accelerated Reading program. (Patrick Davies photo - 100 Mile Free Press)

Michael Davidson is in charge of running Horse Lake Elementary School’s beloved Accelerated Reading program. (Patrick Davies photo - 100 Mile Free Press)