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Durham Catholic District School Board expands popular summer literacy program

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DCDSB summer literacy program expands
WATCH ABOVE: While most kids are enjoying their summer vacation outside the classroom, some early learners are taking this month to continue developing their literacy skills. As Aaron Streck reports, the Summer Rays program has become so popular that it's had to expand – Jul 20, 2018

While most kids are enjoying their summer vacation outside the classroom, some early learners are taking this month to continue developing their literacy skills.

The Summer Rays program has become so popular that it’s had to expand.

Having two months away from the classroom during the summer can do more harm then good for some students.

A group of early learners is spending July in the classroom working on their literacy skills.

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“The purpose of the program is really to decrease summer loss, it’s also about giving our students a renewed sense of confidence so that they can go back to their schools in September and see themselves as successful readers and writers,” said Sarah Dowling, Summer Rays principal and coordinator.

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The Durham Catholic District School Board started its Summer Rays program in 2014.

The initiative is geared towards students from around the region going into grade one and two in the fall.

“We can see some real gains happening in a fairly short period of time, because we quickly assess where the students are when they come to us and we try to build on their strengths and I’m always amazed at their word development, their reading skills, their writing,” said Tracey Helliwell, Summer Rays teacher.

The Summer Rays program has become so popular that it’s expanded to include 160 students this year and added a forth site in the region at St. Joseph Catholic School in north Oshawa.

St. Bernadette Catholic School in Ajax, St. John the Evangelist Catholic School in Whitby and Monsignor Philip Coffey Catholic School in Oshawa are the other sites.

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“We started with one site and so we had about 46 students and so we’ve grown tremendously over the years, and really that’s by word of mouth and the excellent reputation of the program and again the incredible staff working with the students day to day,” said Dowling.

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Enrollment for the four week, 15-day program is limited, and students are referred by their classroom teacher.

While it might seem like a lot of work, the work is made fun.

“The use of the robotics, we bring them in for learning our high frequency words, we bring them in for letter sounds, we do lots of vocabulary, we find words and when we’re out on a trip there’s the tractor we wrote the word tractor,” said Helliwell.

The Summer Rays program wraps up next week.

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