United Way Regina Reflects on a Year of Literacy Supports from a Distance


As the challenging 2020/2021 school year comes to a close, United Way Regina is celebrating a successful first year in our Campaign for Grade Level Reading plan, thanks to all of our funders. While we have long been dedicated to literacy as a key to childhood success, our commitment to the Campaign for Grade Level Reading is an official road map to a collaborative effort in improving reading proficiency and early childhood success for children in our community.

The Campaign focuses on an important predictor of school success and high school graduation—grade-level reading by the end of third grade. Research shows that proficiency in reading by the end of third grade enables students to shift from learning to read to reading to learn, and to master the more complex subject matter they encounter in the fourth grade curriculum.

Most students who fail to reach this critical milestone falter in the later grades and often drop out before earning a high school diploma.

The Campaign is based on the belief that schools cannot succeed alone.

In our first year, we focused on increasing literacy supports in four community schools, with plans to add four more schools in each of the two upcoming school years. We know there is not one magic solution, so we are increasing children’s access to books; helping children be ready for the first day of school; supporting increased attendance; and, preventing the loss of learning throughout the summer. Each of our year one schools has been infused with an array of tools to help support kids along their journey of educational success.  


An innovative solution to volunteerism; Vello stations enable volunteers to connect virtually with learners from their home or office. Each school has a central VELLO enabled computer where students log in to practice reading with their volunteer. Student-volunteer pairings run for five weeks, and our first sessions have been extremely successful. Data shows this reading strategy is working: of the 40 students who participated in our first round 25% maintained their reading level,  the remaining 75% increased reading levels – 37.5% increased by 1-2 reading levels, 27.5% increased by 3-4 reading levels, and, 10% increased by 6 reading levels or more!


Many students regress in their reading skills over the summer. Low-income children are more susceptible, especially if they are not engaged in language and reading activities throughout the summer months; this loss in reading skills is called the ‘summer slide’.

To combat this learning loss, we deployed 325 robust Summer Bookworm Literacy kits in August 2020. These backpacks were filled with tools, resources, snacks, activities, school supplies, and BOOKS to keep kids engaged over the summer months after school closures impacted the final months of their 2019/20 school year.

The first day of kindergarten can be daunting, and especially so for little learners who may not have the resources to arrive prepared. In the fall of 2020, 150 children enrolled in Kindergarten at all 4 of our year 1 priority schools received a Readiness Kit helping provide them with learning supports. These kits provide tools, resources, activities and supplies to help ease the transition from home to school and prepare students for kindergarten.


Since September 2020, we have implemented 16 classroom libraries in classrooms for little learners in grades one through three. With bright colours, bookshelves, a reading nook, and comfy beanbag chairs, classroom libraries are a fabulous oasis of books right at students fingertips! Quickly becoming a favourite place for young learners, these mini libraries connect students with a wide array of grade-level appropriate books on a variety of topics, and in multiple languages, engaging children in reading everyday.


Almost magical, these bright and colourful vending machines were placed within each of our 4 year 1 schools and dispense literary goodies to students. Students who display kindness and respect, illustrate academic achievement, and/or demonstrate positive contributions to their classroom, school, and community, earn golden tokens. During regular school seasons, these tokens will also encourage regular attendance as well. The gold coins allow the student to select a book from the vending machine, increasing students’ access to books so they can build their home library and engage in reading more often.

Education is important to United Way Regina, and while our Campaign for Grade Level Reading plan focuses on students in grades K-3, our commitment to childhood success doesn’t stop there. Knowing the increased challenges facing high school students over the past year, United Way Regina looked for ways we could assist these learners. Connecting with Regina Public Schools, we learned there were students in need of technology to allow them proper access to remote learning. With funding from Wheaton Kia and the City of Regina, we were able to donate 46 Chromebooks to Regina Public High School students to aid in their virtual school experience.

“Access to technology continues to be a critical key to learning success,” says Greg Enion, Director of Education, Regina Public Schools. “We are grateful to United Way Regina, Wheaton Kia and the City of Regina for enhancing access to technology for many of our students. The Chromebooks helped many students continue with their learning during the pandemic and will continue to help even more students access online resources and teaching for years to come.”

“As we reflect on the challenging past year, it is important to recognize and highlight our collective accomplishments,” says Robyn Edwards-Bents, CEO of United Way Regina. “In spite of our challenging times, we are proud to see our students achieving success. It is through our Campaign for Grade Level Reading, and innovative and collaborative initiatives that together, we are shaping a brighter future for everyone in our community.”

United Way Regina is committed to childhood success. Together we focus our collective effort towards helping every child succeed to build a stronger community for all. More information about our Campaign for Grade Level Reading is available at www.unitedwayregina.ca/cglr


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