There's nothing like a great cause to get a community talking and, in this case, reading.
The Big Rothesay Read in New Brunswick is about to embark on its fourth year of involving the entire student body of Rothesay High School and increasing numbers of teachers, parents and citizens of all backgrounds in a community-wide reading initiative.
The launch date for this year's project is Tuesday, April 3. That's the day anxious participants learn the title of the book they'll be reading and discussing in depth over a six-week period.
The high school donates a copy of the book to each student and the book's author is on hand at the end of the project for a book signing.
School officials in Rothesay report that the project has boosted library circulation numbers and created "a culture of reading we haven't seen before." Students who normally wouldn't be interested in reading a book after they've read the ones assigned keep going back for more, the teachers say.
The Literacy Coalition of New Brunswick (LCNB) honoured the Big Rothesay Read with a community literacy award last fall. Dr. Marilyn Trenholme Counsell, president of the Coalition, said it is a "resoundingly successful and valuable school and community literacy project."
She also challenges other communities in New Brunswick to follow Rothesay's example. "The literacy deficit in our province can be beaten so that many more of our youth, our workers and our seniors can experience the joy, the power and the comfort of reading."
Natasha Bozek, executive director of LCNB, would like to see New Brunswick become the first province in Canada to have an entire province of schools holding their own community read each year.
"The engagement and excitement that has exuded from the students involved in the Big Rothesay Read and other community reads taking place across the province is phenomenal and shows that reading can be engaging for all students," she said.
"In order to improve the literacy and essential skills rates in New Brunswick, we need to break down the stigma often associated with low literacy levels and show that reading is fun and that improved skills can open up a world of possibilities for each and every one of us."
Other New Brunswick schools that have followed Rothesay's lead include: