This post was written by Programs Intern, Connor Richter.
Imagine twenty-six grade 5 students’ jaws dropping to the floor as they silently look around at each other in disbelief. This was the scene after I told the students at Rose Avenue Junior School that they were going home with their own personal library of twenty books: books that they read and loved while participating in a nearly 6-month long program with NeuroEdX to improve the executive functions of the brain.
Also present at the graduation ceremony of sorts was Dwayne Mathews, the inspiring and beloved-by-children president and co-founder of NeuroEdX, a division of Nothing Artificial Inc., a neuroscience company that is intent on improving cognitive functions. NeuroEdX’s technology platform NeuroTracker was used by the U.S. Army, McGill University, The Washington Capitals, The Atlanta Falcons, University de Montréal, and Manchester United. All programs were an overwhelming success.
The students who participated in this program interacted with a 3-D computer program that changes based on their responses. Teachers and parents might be hesitant about giving their kids more screen time, but when it improves the executive functions of the brain, mental processing speed, working memory, brainwave speed and attention and response control, well that’s the right kind of screen time. The students used the program once a day for under 10 minutes. Afterwards, they would test the results by timing how long the students could concentrate on silent reading. As soon as one kid started fidgeting and giving a physical indication that they weren’t focused then the exercise would stop.
In January, at the beginning of the program, the kids were reading for 12 minutes. By the end of the program in June, they were reading for 26 minutes – and the only reason the exercise had to stop at 26 minutes was that their teacher needed to continue with the day’s lessons!
These books that the students read over the program were donated by First Book Canada. The students now had 600 high-quality, brand-new books to pick from for their home libraries – just in time for the summer break. When it finally sunk in that the books they had been reading from during this program were now theirs to keep, the students were elated. As soon as I walked into the room I was questioned by the sharp-witted and eloquent kids, when I questioned back, they all told me that the program was a lot of fun. We shared our thoughts on reading and I told them that I considered myself a slow reader, but the summertime was my favourite time to read as a kid because I could go at my own pace and get inspired about topics outside of what’s learned in school. I encouraged them to take the same opportunity this summer with their new books. The ceremony ended with an impassioned and impactful story from Mathews about the life-altering power of reading and self-education.
First Book Canada is honoured to collaborate with programs like these that use innovation and education to make a difference in kids’ lives.