The program pairs older students with younger students to read in pairs and complete different activities.                                 Photo submitted.

The program pairs older students with younger students to read in pairs and complete different activities. Photo submitted.

Reading contest seeks to increase literacy skills in Golden and surronding region

The Great Big Buddy Read is back for its fourth straight year and will be held on Thursday, Jan. 30

The Great Big Buddy Read is back for its fourth straight year on Thursday, Jan. 30, and is a part of the province-wide Family Literacy Week that takes place from Jan. 26 to Feb. 2.

The Great Big Buddy Read is put on by the Golden chapter of the Columbia Basin Alliance for Literacy (CBAL), and is organized by Melanie Myers, the community literacy coordinator for Golden.

“Increasing literacy levels at an early age helps improve health, social and economic outcomes for youth and adults,” said Myers. “Literacy skills are so crucial to all British Columbians and families are often children’s first and most important teachers.”

The event will bring together over 320 students from schools across the Golden area to read together in pairs. High school students and older students from Lady Grey will be partnered with kindergarten students through third grade students, and will be provided books to read to create connections through literacy.

It was Myers who initially came up with the idea for the Great Big Buddy Read four years ago, with the event growing each year.

This year, she’s expanded the event beyond the Golden community to the wider East Kootenays region. All communities with a CBAL office in the region will be participating in a competition to see who can get the most kids reading together on that day.

“I was talking to other communities about what I was doing and they were pretty excited about it so they decided to make it a friendly competition,” said Myers. “It’s just so important to read together from birth all the way through. Reading out loud and sharing those readings and experiences creates such valuable connections.”

While the students don’t have a choice in participating, as participating teachers make it a part of their curriculum for that day, Myers said the students still enjoy getting out and reading with a friend.

“The students love it, it’s really fun,” said Myers. “They read, but then the partners get to do an activity sheet together and we have a snack, and we draw prizes and stuff. It really is a fun day.”

Myers purchases multiple books for different age groups for the event to make sure that there is plenty to go around, and lots of selection to choose from.

According to her, the entire day is funded through CBAL, with multiple parties funding the organization to continue spreading literacy awareness and increasing literacy skills in the valley.

“I allocated funds in the fall for the event, it’s something I budget for every year,” explained Myers.

Funds also come from the Reacher Reader program, which they run every year in partnership with the Golden Rockets Jr. B team. A lot of the funds are also raised through the community, in particular from that event.

With the anticipated numbers, Myers is confident Golden will win the Great Big Buddy Read competition, however she said there are no losers when it comes to increasing literacy and developing a love for reading in young kids.