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United Way Reading Oasis launches in New Westminster

Posted: April 25, 2017

Children from Lord Kelvin Elementary school check out the books in the United Way Reading Oasis. Janet Grant, Associate Superintendent, New Westminster School District and Michael McKnight, President & CEO, United Way of the Lower Mainland look on.

The bright green bookshelves are filled with new books. The walls are painted with palm trees, fluffy clouds and blue skies. Colourful comfy chairs await kids. The United Way Reading Oasis is ready for kids to have fun and learn.

A gift from an anonymous United Way donor and a partnership with New Westminster School District has resulted in two United Way Reading Oasis corners being created. The gift has enabled the purchase of furniture and a collection of books including fiction, non-fiction, graphic novels, First Nations stories and books from local publishers.

Superintendent Pat Duncan, New Westminster School District and Michael McKnight, President & CEO, United Way of the Lower Mainland helped officially open the reading corners today at Lord Kelvin Elementary School.

Lord Kelvin is a community school. Community Schools are neighbourhood hubs for families and children. They provide safe, easily accessible places where children are able to take part in a variety of quality after-school programs.

“The United Way Reading Oasis is a quiet, calm space that will give children a chance to develop their literacy and strengthen their educational potential,” said Pat Duncan, Superintendent, New Westminster School District. “We are grateful to United Way for making these spaces possible!”

“Poverty is a barrier for children reaching their full potential,” said Michael McKnight, President & CEO, United Way of the Lower Mainland. “In this neighbourhood, 25% of the population live in low income. The United Way Reading Oasis will help break down one barrier for local children.”

The United Way – Community Schools Partnership began in 2006 with one school district and has since expanded to include seven: Vancouver, Burnaby, Coquitlam, Delta, Surrey, Maple Ridge and New Westminster.

In 2016, more than 35,000 kids accessed quality after-school programs at more than 230 Community School sites throughout the Lower Mainland.

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FACTS and FIGURES

  • In New Westminster, almost 1,000 kids accessed 75 after-school programs delivered in seven community school sites in New Westminster.
  • After-school programs include tutoring and homework help, physical and recreational sports programs, life skills and leadership programs, as well as arts, music, nutrition and health education.
  • Literacy is particularly important to kids’ development and can be an early indicator of future success.
  • Beginning readers who fall significantly behind their peers often don’t catch up. This can have a devastating impact on their future.
  • 25% of the population in New Westminster’s Uptown neighbourhood (where Lord Kelvin Elementary School is located) live in poverty.*
  • Kids living in low-income families and neighbourhoods have fewer opportunities for healthy development and poorer educational outcomes.
  • Too much unstructured time alone in the middle years can result in loneliness, depression, anxiety, lead to low self-esteem and increased susceptibility to illness or, alternatively, to bullying, violence, involvement in unhealthy peer groups or gangs, as well as substance (drug/alcohol) abuse and school delinquency (skipping school/classes).

*United Way of the Lower Mainland Community Profile: New Westminster.