What was the first question your friends asked you when you saw each other after Reading Week? It probably had something to do with what you did while on break. So what did you do? Did you relax, unwind, socialize, read (yeah, right)? How about this: did you make a difference in your community during your Reading Week? Did you give your time to help out those in need or those who deserve it most? That was the goal of Alternative Reading Week, offering students the chance to make their Reading Week a meaningful one. You might not have even heard of this program before now, so I’ll explain it as best as I can and why it will make you rethink Reading Week.
Alternative Reading Week is an opportunity to volunteer in the community for three days on your break, for two hours each day, in a field of your choice. Fields include working with the elderly, children, the disadvantaged, and more. You work in a team of five or more other students, including your group leader. What you might not know is that you also receive a credit on your co-curricular record upon the successful completion of the program and its required reflections and social events. It’s a chance to give back and receive recognition for doing so; how cool is that? You’ll still have plenty of time to relax, too, if you don’t have too much work to complete over your break.
Needless to say, I enjoyed the experience immensely. Volunteering was my favourite pastime in high school, and I contributed over 400 hours in my local community. Much of my time was given to assisting and mentoring children, which was the field that I chose for my Alternative Reading Week. It was gratifying to be able to continue the tradition in university with like-minded students. Although we only worked with each child for one hour, our team had fun assisting bright young students with their academic pursuits in math and English. They have the potential to pursue their dreams, and it’s an awesome feeling to contribute to their success in a small way. As well, my team members worked well together, with each of us contributing something unique to the project.
Which brings me to my only real complaint: the working hours for the project. They just were not long enough to really get to know the students we assisted. It would be awesome if next year we could take a trip to a classroom and help out there for the day, or something like that. The experience needs to last for the entire day to make it feel truly unique and worthwhile.
Alternative Reading Week will change how you look at your time off and what you do with it. If you have the time next Reading Week, you won’t regret getting involved because of what you will learn about this community. I recaptured the nostalgia of mentoring others, reigniting a passion that I will find a way to continue in my later years. Hopefully, the daily commitment becomes more substantial next year for the best possible experience. It’s a different way of doing Reading Week, but a really great way at that.