Reading program at Crossroads really taking off

Peggy Revell

Getting families to read together is the aim of a new program at Crossroads School in Devlin.
The “Spend Time Together and Read” (STTAR) program, launched in January and which sees the school library open to students and their families every Wednesday from 6-8 p.m., was presented with a “Recognition of Excellence” by the Rainy River District School Board at its Feb. 1 meeting.
“I felt since I got to Crossroads, it’s a rather unique situation and we really think that the school needs to be a citizen of the community,” principal Gord McCabe said about how the STTAR program came about, adding he was trying find ways to draw more people into the school.
Last spring, McCabe thought he had what was an original idea: to open up the school library for an evening so parents and students could come and use it.
So he approached Crossroads’ librarian Anne Jane Anderson about it.
“I’ve been wanting to do that for years and nobody let me!” was Anderson’s response, McCabe recalled.
“She basically took the whole idea and ran with it,” he added, lauding Anderson for all the work she has done to get the STTAR program up and running.
This included going to the school council, which then applied for—and received—$1,000 in funding through a “Parent Reaching Out” grant from the Ministry of Education.
This grant allowed Anderson to purchase a variety of books and resources on parenting which parents now can borrow when they come in for the program.
As well, Anderson has worked to collect novels and reading material for parents, too.
“Our first day of actual operation was Jan. 5—also the same night as the Canada-Russia final of the world junior hockey championship,” McCabe chuckled.
That evening, the program consisted of just five people: himself, Anderson, and the Peloquin family consisting of mom, Selena, and daughters, Brianna and Zoe, who also attended the Feb. 1 board meeting.
But since then, McCabe said the program has grown—going from three to eight to 10 and 12. And he hopes it continues to grow, with at least 10-20 families coming out each Wednesday evening.
“The proof of its appeal is in [the] response from both the parents and students,” he remarked.
“We have been growing and I think word of mouth is starting to get out there, which is they way a lot of things happen in a small community.”
One of the appeals of the program comes because Devlin doesn’t have a public library, so it fills a bit of a “niche,” McCabe explained.
 And it’s been a no-cost program for the board, he noted, saying Anderson simply has re-arranged her hours with the approval of the teachers’ union.
Either he or vice-principal Donna Kowalchuk also are on hand for the evening.
“We really enjoy coming out here,” Selena Peloquin told the board about the STTAR program, which she and her family has attended every week since it began.
“My girls and I always want to go to the library but after work and school, we’re simply too tired or too rushed to head all the way into town,” she reasoned.
“Now there is an accessible library closer to us.”
Besides spending time reading and on the computers, Peloquin said it’s also nice, as a parent, to be able to meet and interact with other parents of Crossroads’ students.
At the board meeting, McCabe also shared written feedback from parents who have come out for the program.
“STTAR gives us a chance to read new books and authors, as well as re-read ones we have enjoyed,” he read from one letter submitted by Rosanne Farmer about how she and her son, Tyson, have enjoyed the program.
“It is also been a great opportunity to watch how proficient my son has become on computers,” she wrote.
Like Peloquin, Farmer also noted how the program has given her the chance to meet with other parents, as well as learn about the programs Crossroads offers.
McCabe said the Farmers plan to attend every Wednesday as long as the program is available—and hope it continues in school years to come.
Other feedback noted the program is one of the few times parents have a change to read quietly together without interruption with their children, McCabe added, saying it’s quality time without television or video games.
“I think it’s pretty clear that we’re onto something here, and we’re pretty excited,” McCabe enthused.
“Although the program is just getting started, I think it’s something that could really make Crossroads unique,” he stressed.