The camps, which were held in all nine communities, topped last year’s by bringing in a total of 464 campers, an increase of 50. Each child read an average of nine books, and 12 counsellors from the program were hired locally.
Melanie Valcin is the Quebec Manager for Frontier College, which is the partner and program provider to the Cree School Board for the Summer Literacy Camps. Valcin said this year’s camps were a success because they were able to take what they learned in 2013 to make 2014 an even more successful camp season.
“Slowly the awareness in the communities of what the camp is about and what we are trying to do is getting through,” said Valcin. “I think that parents and community members are, after a second year, really beginning to see the benefits of having the kids in the camp.”
According to the preliminary data from the program and the surveys done by parents, campers and counsellors: 74% of campers said that they like reading more after attending the Summer Literacy Camp; all of the parents surveyed said that their children had improved literacy and social skills; and all of the camp counsellors surveyed said that they had noticed positive behaviours in the children.
Several local retailers gave the camps discounts on purchasing supplies and snacks for the children, enabling the hiring of more Crees for the program. Some of those hired were individuals who already work in the local schools so the children were able to benefit from their pre-established relationships.
“We were (also) able to hire quite a few post-secondary students like some of the Cree students from Mistissini who are studying at Concordia University (in Montreal) and then another two who are studying at Canadore College (in North Bay, Ontario). These people are great role models for the children,” said Valcin.
As one goal of the camp is to prevent summer learning loss, participating children enjoyed days that were filled with fun-learning activities and special-learning projects that were individual to each community.
Valcin said the group in Nemaska created a beautiful comic book using children’s stories and drawings, while those in other communities created music videos.
The success of last year’s camp encouraged the community of Kuujjuarapik to create its own literacy camps with Frontier. Children in nearby Whapmagoostui became pen pals and enjoyed weekly activities with their Inuit neighbours, forging new bonds.
“All of these projects are geared at keeping the kids from summer learning loss but at the same time, by the end of the summer these kids feel as though reading isn’t chore but is something that they need to succeed and go further to learn and share and express themselves,” said Valcin.