Aspiration and Advocacy: The History of Fall Reading Break

You made it to Fall Reading Week– congratulations! Whether you’re using this time to catch up on projects or simply using it to recoup your sleep debt, we know this week is a much-needed, and much-deserved, respite from classes.

Wait? There wasn’t always a Fall Reading Break?

The Fall Reading Break is a relatively new development, and many post-secondary students in Alberta have SAMRU to thank for trailblazing the full week of study. So let’s take a quick rewind and dive into how a Fall Reading Week came to be.

While it may seem that two reading breaks are a staple of the university experience, it never used to be that way. Up until the Fall of 2017, the reading break was a Winter semester exclusive, giving students a mid-February week off to prepare for the back third of their school year. After coming back from a summer of sunshine and work for the fall, it was a full grind until the pens were put down and the holiday break began in December.

But while Mount Royal was in the midst of transitioning from a College to a University in the late 2000s, there was another big development brewing – an extra day off for students.

Okay, it was much more than an extra vacation day. Reading Day had been in the works for a while as an extension of a weekend in the fall for students to keep up with their projects. Multiple SAMRU VP Academics on the Representation Executive Council (REC) and the MRU President’s Task Force on Student Mental Health carefully looked over the numbers of supports accessed and timing in the semester and thought that maybe a change was in order. Thus, the idea of a “Reading Day” became a reality.

Reading day is here to stay
Former REC VP Academic Erin Delamont. Photo courtesy of The Reflector.
Former REC VP Academic Erin Delamont. Photo courtesy of The Reflector.

Beginning in 2009, the newly renamed Mount Royal University began to give students an extra day in November to catch up on their studies, adding to the Remembrance Day holiday. Depending on when the observance of Remembrance Day fell during the week, students could count on an extra day or two off on their already shortened weeks. Score!

This was a vital advocacy goal of VP Academic at the time, Erin Delamont, who was able to finally secure the extra break for students after discussions with profs, mental health professionals, and the MRU institution itself.

The first annual observance was a hit, and just like that, Reading Day went off without a hitch for eight years. With more time off in November, students had more leniency and the ability to get help without worrying about falling behind, or they could take some time off to see family.

But this wouldn’t be the final implementation of a fall study break.

Why not a whole week!

It’s apt to say Reading Day walked so Reading Week could run.

Students were in love with a Reading Day in November – however, as amazing as a four-day weekend is in theory, the placement of the break wasn’t the most ideal for students. 

While the November placement gave additional time to prepare for the full-on sprint of finals season, the workload from late September to mid-November was causing an awful amount of stress and burnout among the student body. 

From the germ of an idea that began back in 2009 of a Reading Day  — and thanks to more research and advocacy from SAMRU — MRU’s President’s Task Force on Student Mental Health recommended an entire week off for students to connect with professors and to catch up on schoolwork.

Former REC VP Academic Tristian Smyth.

In 2013, then-VP Academic Tristan Smyth spoke to The Reflector, noting how a Reading Week could give students not just a break, but a time to think and stay ahead of their studies. The break would also be conducive for students’ mental health.

But it didn’t happen right away. For the next few years, SAMRU VP Academics were adamant about the implementation of a full week off of classes. They took note of post-secondary institutions in Ontario, which had begun adopting a second break to nearly unanimous acclaim for students’ time management and mental well-being. 

Before the complete implementation of Reading Week, there were a couple of trial runs to ensure the initiative ran smoothly.

Reading Day: Expanded – a prequel and a sequel?

When making a sequel, it’s always essential to up the ante – give the audience even more of what they need without going so far you ruin what made it great. While Reading Day was lauded as a masterpiece, SAMRU knew there was still untapped potential.

So for two years, from 2015-16, a “pilot” gave students the taste of a pseudo Reading Week. A couple of extra days were added to the Reading Day break in November, bestowing those studying at MRU with what would eventually become Reading Week. Unsurprisingly, students came to love the extra days off.

Mental health, in particular, was paramount, with elected representatives hoping to see students getting time off to access the resources when they needed them the most. The pilot was successful, and soon, a permanent implementation would take hold.

Let the week begin!

Beginning in the 2017 school year, the Reading Week we know and love came to be, with an announcement from Mount Royal University outlining the new parameters. At that time, Mount Royal University was the only post-secondary institution in Alberta to provide a full week off for students. Schools like U of C and U of A would follow suit the next year, starting a wave where nearly all post-secondaries feature a week off in the fall to provide time to catch up on studies, additional student resources, socialization, and arguably most importantly – sleep.

Additionally, Reading Week debuted with some slight alterations from its test-week counterpart.

Why October?

Rather than taking place during November when Reading Day was previously held, SAMRU, in collaboration with MRU’s Task Force on Student Mental Health, proposed Reading Week be moved up to October, conjoined to the Thanksgiving long weekend. This decision was made with much deliberation to ease the stress on students. During the week in which reading week was proposed:

Former REC VP Academic Robbie Nelson.
  • Students surveyed noted this week is filled with due dates from the first overwhelming dump of assignments, projects, and midterms
  • Study time prior to October midterms was designed to help reduce stress
  • The earlier students were given the time off, the more likely they were to access academic and non-academic assistance services
  • The week occurred during a shortened week, so students don’t have to add an extra day in September or December to their academic years
  • Students were given time to spend with family and friends on Thanksgiving

The VP Academic at the time, Robbie Nelson, was quoted in Mount Royal’s release, noting how this break would be essential for students to access mental health resources. 

“Initiatives like this show our institution’s dedication to putting students’ mental health first and addressing needs that have existed for a long time,” said Nelson. “Giving students a chance to prioritize their well-being will undoubtedly improve their chances at academic success and contribute to an overall improvement in the quality of their lives and education.”

So, while some students want reading week to happen in November just like it does at U of C, there is good research and reasoning behind the timing of an October fall reading break.

We’re always looking to improve

If you have any questions or feedback regarding this upcoming fall reading break, don’t hesitate to voice your concern with your Representation Executive Council (REC) members! Your REC team is always considering and presenting student feedback each year regarding reading week timings, so don’t hesitate to let them know what is and isn’t working for you. You can contact them easily at

Additionally, if you are looking for confirmation regarding services accessible to you during this time, you can always send inquiries to