This is Xander’s Story.

Written story shared by his father, Joe Archer
Video story shared by both Joe and Shannon (mother) Archer

This school year marks my third year being the Strong Start Site Co-ordinator at Hagersville Elementary school. We have grown our program over the years to include up to 10+ volunteers and over 20+ students within one round. We have had some wonderful parents, grandparents, adult volunteers and a recently retired teacher, each giving their time to help children read.

The actual empowerment that students walk away with from these direct one to one experiences with trained volunteers is phenomenal from a teacher’s standpoint. Students leave the room twice a week (30 minutes each time) for 10-weeks to gain support with letter, sounds, sight words and building words.

While I am passionate about the program at our school, I have now experienced a new side of Strong Start as a parent. My son, Xander, is in grade 1 now, and he went through the letters and sounds strands of the program. Xander’s a busy little guy, and he struggled with the transition from play-based learning at school to sitting at a desk to do pen and paper tasks.

Before the program, getting Xander to go to school was a huge struggle for our family. I think one of the fears he had was that he didn’t feel capable, or even on par with the other children. He didn’t want to look silly in front of them. As a parent, that was really hard to take.


What transpired and is still currently occurring I did not expect nor foresee. He’s gained confidence and self-esteem. He’s developed a love of reading and writing. He’s trying harder at school and producing better quality work. This has truly benefited our whole family as he is now an example to his younger sisters, reading to them and helping them with their sounds.

Xander is actively asking and driving us nuts at home, after hours, on weekends, at the rink in the car, and everywhere in between, always wanting to read more and more and more! What I have witnessed as a parent is something remarkable I did not see as a Site Co-ordinator. We hear from parents how much their child has improved, but today I am able to say I see it. I have lived through the painful trials and tribulations of watching my child struggle to now seeing the grin from ear to ear when he gets a new book.

The transformation for me as a parent is something remarkable….this program has empowered Xander to excel, become more confident at reading and as a direct result, his writing has improved as well. He has become more willing, able and eager to go to school. His teacher is quite impressed and happy with the growth and development, but as a parent it is incredible to see the smile upon his face while trying to solve a difficult word, sounding the letters out, doing the blends and ending / beginning sounds, even small words within larger words too.

The Strong Start program has enlightened school for my son, and as a teacher, that’s the greatest gift.