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Racing to read

Surrey school program weaves fitness and literacy, children and SFU students.
Students at Surrey's Newton Elementary and Simon Fraser University are involved in Racing Readers

Students at Newton Elementary are racing toward becoming better readers – and more – thanks to regular visits by students from Simon Fraser University.

Racing Readers is a pilot program developed through SFU Surrey's TD Community Engagement Centre and the Surrey School District.

Each week, students from SFU visit the Surrey elementary school, engaging kids in some sort of physical activity before settling in on gym mats with some books.

The activity portion of the get togethers is not competitive, but children have begun tracking their efforts on a hallway bulletin board, tallying more than 2,000 kilometres since the program began in November.

“We’ve seen some amazing results over the past few months, not only with literacy levels but in terms of social skills as well, ” says Newton Elementary principal Jodie Kennett.

Christine Akl, a student in SFU’s School of Interactive Arts and Technology (SIAT) is one of more than a dozen university students involved in the program.

“It’s great to see these kids energized to participate and enjoy some social time,” she says. “We try to make the experience fun and practical and it’s wonderful to see them improve. It’s also a great way to give something back to the community.”

Trisha Dulku, a student program coordinator, says the mix of ages makes the program unique.

"We have students ranging from age six to 11, SFU student volunteers who are all in different stages of completing their degrees, and high school mentors who are leaders for the younger students, yet also able to connect with our SFU volunteers," Dulku says. "This truly is a program that surpasses boundaries."

Racing Readers is one of nearly 30 CEC (Community Engagement Centre) programs aimed at fostering connections between SFU and the ethnically diverse South Fraser community. For more information, check


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