This school year marks my third year being the Strong Start Site Coordinator at Hagersville Elementary school. We have grown our program over the years to include up to 10 + volunteers and over 20 + students within one round. The amazing volunteers that have come, gone, stayed and recently began have supported over 85 students at the conclusion of this round (concluding January 2017). We have had some wonderful parents, grandparents, adult volunteers and recently a recently retired teacher; Jo-ann Dunns.
The actual empowerment that students walk away with from these direct one to one experiences with trained volunteers is phenomenal from a teachers standpoint. Students leave room twice a week (30 minutes each time) for ten weeks to gain support with letter, sounds, building words and words knowledge to support classroom teachers guided reading programs from SK-Grade 2 and some grade 3’s requiring additional support.
Below is a link to a short cameo I did for Strong Start last year discussing the program and its applications for students and teachers
The next link is our awesome principal; Janice Hughes discussing the program as well;
The reason I blog regarding this amazing program at this time is how I have now experienced a new side / perspective of Strong Start; as a parent. My son; Xander is in grade 1 now, at the conclusion of his kindergarten education he was still an A reader, still requiring to learn many letters, sounds let alone trying to decode sight words in print.
Last year my wife joined us volunteering at Hagersville Elementary; she received the training and worked two rounds of Strong Start with us. Shannon also is part of Lakewood Elementary Schools Parent Counsel and when it came up last year at a meeting after hours, she raved about the program and strongly supported Lakewood adopting and acquiring the kits to begin Strong Start at Lakewood. Along side the LRT teacher; Shannon and many other Port Dover volunteers are now delivering the program within my own community I live in, where OUR kids go to school. This was HUGE for me being a strong advocate for this awesome program!
What transpired and is still currently occurring I did not expect nor foresee. Xander was admitted into the program working on letters and sounds to support his sight word vocab and reading. Along side lots and lots of hours spent after school reading various books, doing Giraffe Sight Words from Dolch Lists (Thanks Jen Abbott-Smith for supporting and pushing him) he is now an Independent C reader by Christmas and an Instructional D reader.
What I enjoy more is that he is actively asking and driving us nuts at home after hours, on weekends, at the rink in the car asking to read more and more and more! What I have witnessed as a parent is something remarkable I did not see as a Site Coordinator. We hear from parents how much their child has improved, but today I am able to say I see it, I have live through the painful trials and tribulations of watching my child struggle to now seeing the grin from ear to ear when he gets a new book. He is one of the most eager kids I know that WANTS new BOOKS (in todays world that doesn’t happen often). So, the transformation for me as a parent is something remarkable….this program has empowered Xander to excel become more confident at reading and as a direct result his writing as well…he has become more willing, able and eager to go to school (we still have rough mornings getting him there but he is doing very well at school). His teacher is quite impressed and happy with the growth and development, but as a parent it is incredible to see the smile upon his face while trying to solve a difficult word, sounding the letters out, doing the blends and ending / beginning sounds, even small words within larger words too.
I wish everyone could see this amazing change in your own children! I strongly suggest you ask for Strong Start at your child’s school. Volunteer and become involved (all it takes is a minimum of 1 hour a week) every little bit helps.
To you volunteers – I cannot say enough at how thankful and impressed I am with my sons growth, my students past, present and future growth to occur – you all are amazing!
The Strong Start program has enlightened school for my son, and as a teacher that’s the greatest gift I could ever get when he was previously apprehensive and reluctant to go to school!
Thank you Strong Start – this new perspective is unreal to see and witness first hand! Sign me up for a new testimonial from a parents perspective please!!