Local charity Strong Start looking out for our future generations

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As the pandemic continues to fester, I’ve been contemplating different ways we can all assist our community. Whether it’s supporting local businesses, working our essential jobs or volunteering at a charity, now more than ever it is important to back each other as much as possible.

During my research, there was one organization in particular I took an immediate interest in; Strong Start, a charity dedicated to my favourite hobby: reading.

Strong Start is a registered Canadian charity,—located in the Kitchener-Waterloo Region,—with the goal of teaching young children to read. They work directly with students through schools, community centres and volunteers to strengthen one of the most important developmental skills of our youth.

“Early literacy has a profound impact on healthy child development as the ability to read is an essential life skill,” Laura Scott, Director of Development at Strong Start said in a statement.

“The World Literacy Organization notes that weak reading skills predict lower high school completion rates, lower income levels, increased health care costs, and increased involvement with the criminal justice system.”. 

“Investing in our children is crucial for the future of our communities”, Scott said. 

Developing these skills at a young age sets these children up for success. Makes enough sense to me.

I never read a full novel to completion until my last year of high school, and before that, I know I struggled. I still get chills every time my cousin starts throwing her four-inch thick Babar books my way.

It makes you wonder, how common is it for children to struggle with their literary skills? I always chalked it up to undiagnosed ADHD, but that might not be the case.

“The National Strategy for Early Learning Report states that 1 in 4 Canadian children who enter Grade 1 are already significantly behind his or her peers,” Scott continued in her email statement. 

“By the end of Grade 3, 74 per cent of struggling readers won’t ever catch up. To positively impact a child’s learning trajectory, early intervention is paramount, before a child falls behind.”

But what makes Strong Start different than how children have traditionally been taught to read? My mother taught us by using her wildly out- of- date anatomy textbooks and I turned out relatively stable.

“Our early literacy intervention program targets children in Senior Kindergarten, Grades 1 and 2 who have been identified by their teachers as lagging behind in essential early reading/literacy skills”, Scott said. 

Strong Start’s Letter, Sounds and Words program is equipped with four strands of learning: letters, sounds, words and building words. 

“Each child is enrolled in 2-3 strands which target their identified areas of greatest need. For each strand, they receive one on one support for 30 minutes per week from a trained Volunteer Coach over a 10-week period,” Scott said.

This sounds extensive compared to the literacy training I’d received as an elementary student. Similar to the children mentioned above, I was behind on my reading skills, and designated as someone who needed further assistance.

But by no means was that assistance this expanded. I avidly recall hours of puppet making, ordering pizzas and very little reading being done.

“Children are assessed before and after the program to determine their areas of need and to monitor their gains. Our data demonstrates that 95 per cent of the children enrolled in the program made considerable, excellent or outstanding gains in their early literacy skills,” Scott said. “Thus far, Strong Start has impacted over 49,000 children through this program.”

Strong Start found a need and matched it with a solution, bettering the literacy of our future generation.

Now, I know what you’re thinking, how can all of us help out! Well, lay your little philanthropist heart to rest, you too can be of assistance!

“Our community can support Strong Start with their gift of time, as volunteers, or financially as donors. Friends in our community are encouraged to register online as monthly donors, but there are other ways they may support Strong Start,” Scott said in the statement. 

“Because we do not receive any government funding, our organization is completely funded through community support. We are grateful for the efforts community members make to invest in children’s literacy.”

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