A one month challenge, a lifetime of learning

- November 28, 2013

Tigers hockey players pose with one classroom's reading log that tracks the amount of books each student has read over the past month.
Tigers hockey players pose with one classroom's reading log that tracks the amount of books each student has read over the past month.

Reading is an invaluable skill that many of us take for granted. For some, these skills don’t come so easily.

The Tigers women’s hockey team has teamed up with Hockey Players for Kids (HP4K) to provide the students at Saint Mary’s Elementary School with fun and exciting reading challenges that will help the students develop life-long reading skills.

They are the first CIS hockey program, and the first female hockey team in the world, to participate in the program.

The ball got rolling when fifth-year forward Fielding Montgomery got in contact with Mac Faulkner, a professional hockey player with the Cardiff Devils of the British Elite Hockey League, who is a board member with HP4K.

Faulkner introduced Montgomery to the Stick to Reading challenge, which is a four- to six-week program where students try to read as many books as they can and log as many hours doing so. All of the student’s progress is logged throughout the entire challenge, and students are given prizes when it is all over.

One question remained: where could such a program be most effective?

Megan O’Neill, Sarah Robichaud and Joleen MacInnis were all lunch monitors at Saint Mary’s Elementary School, a small school on Morris Street with just over 100 students. In early September, Montgomery used the connection to get in contact with the school’s principal, Sandra Chauvin, who welcomed the program with open arms.

The Tigers made their first visit to the school at the beginning of November, with two or three Tigers players going to each classroom. The players talked to the students about the importance and the enjoyment of reading, and they brought along $50 worth of books for each classroom, donated by HP4K.

The program created an almost instant buzz among the children, who were thrilled to interact with the players and share their love of reading.

“Kids are awesome to work with," says Montgomery. “They’re always eager to learn and they’re excited to hear what you have to say. When we visit the kids, they all want to participate in the discussions and show us how hard they’ve been working at this challenge.”

Saint Mary’s principal Sandra Chauvin says the program has had a profound effect on her students, with virtually every student striving to read more and more books, with the hopes of being the top classroom in the school and earning the coveted pizza party at the end of the month.

The Tigers visited the school on November 28 and presented each student with a certificate that honoured their hard work during the challenge, and it was time to reveal the top-performing class.

With 844 books read in November, the primary class claimed the grand prize of a pizza party.

“I had to laugh when I went into the Primary class,” joked Chauvin. “They had filled their bristol board with stickers and now stickers went all around the door and up the door frame. The kids were all talking about how many books they’d read at night.”

The program is now over for the semester, but both the Tigers players and Chauvin hope to continue building on their successful partnership. “The children are thrilled to see them come every time,” added Chauvin. “We would be glad to keep working with the Tigers.”

Megan O’Neill hopes the students will maintain their passion for reading long after the Stick to Reading challenge is over. “I hope the program has motivated them to remain curious and to continue to discover new books. Although they are in their beginning years of their educational careers, I hope the kids will continue their love of learning.”


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