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April 2008 saw the close of Clare County Library’s transatlantic reading challenge for national schoolchildren for the second consecutive year. Over a six-month period, from November ’07 to April ’08, children in Clare’s Schools have read a phenomenal 211,967 books. This staggering total means that the 2,391 pupils who signed up for the Challenge read an average of 89 books each. The first Transatlantic Reading Challenge began in late 2006 and proved to be hugely successful in the promotion of reading among children in Clare.
Thirty schools joined the challenge this year which was a 50% increase on last year’s numbers. National school children were encouraged to read as much as they could for six months, choosing books at school, at home and from the public library.
The Reading Challenge is part of a larger crime prevention program in Canadian libraries called the Adopt-a-Library Literacy Program and is a partnership of police and public libraries. The Program advocates literacy as a means of ensuring children and young people have high self esteem and feel in control of their lives. By taking part in the Reading Challenge children can improve their reading skills and learn to work together towards a common goal by competing against other schools in a friendly and positive way.
Gardai at Ennis Garda Headquarters has been exceedingly supportive of the project. Joining with the library service Clare Garda Division assigned fifteen members of the Gardai to the project, who visited schools on a regular basis, sometimes with library staff, to promote the challenge and to drive home the message that increased literacy means decreased crime. Teachers and librarians involved in the project all agree that the participating gardai worked far beyond the call of duty in engaging and inspiring the young readers in the schools they visited.
One of the highlights of the challenge to date was the visit by Constable John Kennedy, Royal Canadian Mounted Police, founder and co-ordinator for the Adopt-a-Library Literacy Program to six schools who joined last year’s reading Challenge. Constable Kennedy also met with members of the Clare Garda Division to impress upon them the value of linking the Reading Challenge Project with Community policing.
Clare County Library plan to assist with his return visit in the Autumn of 2008.
Mr. Kevin Glynn, principal of Lahinch National School who are this year’s winners of The Reading Challenge, said, “The buzz of reading was palpable throughout the whole school". The teachers found that everyone could take part, the children challenged themselves to read harder books and the parents thought it was the best thing that ever happened. When the children themselves were asked what they thought were the advantages of the whole experience here is some of what they had to say, “everyone was able to take part”, “ we got to learn fun facts”, “it really was a challenge to read as many books as possible”, “when I started …… I thought I’d read 100 books and I ended up reading 600!”, “we got to read different books every time”, and “I’m never going to quit reading”.
Clare Schools did themselves especially proud this year with Lahinch National School coming second and Furglan National School coming third in the overall International Challenge among schools in Nova Scotia, London and the US. Big Tancook Elementary School in Lunenburg County, Nova Scotia, Canada, took first place out of the four participating countries.
Prizes were presented to Lahinch, Furglan and Clouna National Schools, in Ennistymon on the 22nd May 2008 by Mayor of Clare, Councillor Patricia McCarthy.