In a noisy George Dixon Centre gymnasium filled with bouncing basketballs, a small group of children aged five to seven gathered under a tent to read with peers, mentors and the mayor yesterday.

 

As he read a brightly coloured page illustrated by a cake, Mayor Peter Kelly looked up and asked the kids, “What kind of cake do you like?”

 

“Chocolate,” one girl said.

 

“Chocolate,” another girl agreed.

“Every kind of cake!” exclaimed a small boy in a blue hat, shooting his arm into the air as he spoke.

The Frontier College Summer Reading Tent program, which gathers children aged five to twelve under the tent every week to read, aims to stimulate their minds during summer months spent out of school.

“It’s usually outside where reading is more fun,” Ramona Clarke, community co-ordinator for Frontier College, said. “We do it because over the summer children go through what’s called a learning loss. And we try to improve their literacy skills, sharpen their literacy skills over the summer by exposing them to the reading tent program.”

But Clarke said it’s not just about the books.

“It’s about literacy activities that are fun, it’s about being outside, it’s about having your peers, students and volunteers sit and read with you,” she said.

Lark Jones, who is from the north end Halifax neighbourhood the George Dixon Centre serves, said the reading program has changed the way kids in the area approach reading. Now the children take the books home to read in their spare time.

“Back in the day we never had any reading tents,” the co-ordinator for the community centre said. “Reading really is fundamental because if you can’t read, you can’t achieve.”

Jones added he hoped the kids gain “some really good tools they can use for the rest of their lives.”