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Firefighters on mission to improve poor literacy rates among NB students

Click to play video: 'Moncton Firefighters are fighting to improve poor literacy rates'
Moncton Firefighters are fighting to improve poor literacy rates
WATCH ABOVE: The Moncton Fire Department has started its annual reading program called Firefighters Fight for Literacy. As Global’s Shelley Steeves reports, poor literacy continues to be a problem at schools across the province and these heroes are trying to inspire more kids to pick up a book and read – Nov 1, 2016

Moncton firefighters are trying to battle the provincial issue of poor literacy among children by launching a reading program called Firefighters Fight for Literacy.

Firefighter Christopher Jackson says firefighters are volunteering to read to kids in 17 classrooms at Bessborough School in Moncton twice a week for the next month.

“We thought that we could have an effect using the fact that we are role models in the community and that children look up to us to show them that it’s cool to read.”

The program has been in place for six years.

Jackson says the goal is to encourage more kids to read and tackle the province’s ongoing problems with poor literacy.

“Having the ladies and gentlemen come in and read to our kids has a huge impact because they are rock stars in our kids’ eyes,” Principal Nick Mattatall said.

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Provincial reading assessments conducted by the New Brunswick Department of Education show more than 30 per cent of Grade 2 students in the Anglophone East School District are not reading at an appropriate grade level. The assessments also showed Grade 2 reading scores for the district have been steadily dropping for the last six years.

WATCH: Literacy expert calls for more training on teaching children how to read 

Province-wide, only 74 per cent of Grade 2 students were successful on the reading assessment.

Gregg Ingersoll is the superintendent of the Anglophone East School District and says more dynamic classrooms could be part of the problem as the number of students with special needs and mental health issues is growing.

“When you have a classroom that has multiple children displaying behavioural issues – that is very challenging for the teacher to co-ordinate all of that and deliver the curriculum.”

He says in order to address the diverse needs of every student, teachers need more resource support and mental health training, which is something he says the district is working on providing.

Meanwhile, Ingersoll said kids need more reading mentors.

“Anytime that students can see that literacy is about more than what you are learning in class is key.”

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Which is why programs like the Firefighters Fighting for Literacy are so important.

A little added incentive, Jackson says, goes a long way to getting kids fired up about reading.

“The grand prize is a ride to school in Ladder 5 which is our largest fire truck in the city of Moncton.”

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