A podcast by Elise Hamner
Hey, I hear you want to be involved in a project one that’s inspiring. More than that, a project that inspires children. Well, we have a project for you. It’s called Gift of Literacy. I’m Elise Hamner with Rotary District 5110. Come Along on this Voices of Rotary adventure, and find out how you can be involved in the Gift of Literacy.
Would you give a gift of reading a book?
“Yes, I would love to read to all those boys and girls out there. Are you guys ready to have a book read to you?”
Do you remember the first time someone read to you? Maybe you were in first grade or when someone gave you your first book. Do you remember holding it in your hands, rubbing your fingers across the letters and the pictures? Savoring those pictures in imagining, you were there. All the more reason to be a part of a project that connects children with the books. They love
“Personally after we eradicate polio. I’d love for us to take on literacy. In America or around the globe because it is so important.”
That’s Patty. Scott a long time. Rotarian in the Coos Bay North, Bend Rotary Club. She’s also president of Southwestern Oregon Community College.
“It was Patty and Tennille and I were sitting together at a Rotary Meeting.”
Meet Bill Grile, former governor of Rotary District 5110.
“What happened was, many years ago, the district started a dictionary project and it was the district’s first effort at promoting literacy. If a club wanted dictionaries, they got X number of dictionaries who uses dictionaries who uses printed dictionaries.”
“Today’s student, especially in the post covid world where they’ve all been staring at electronic devices, everything that we grew up going to a book to get that had to be on the Shelf. If we wanted the information, is now at your fingertips, on your phone, your tablet, or computer.
“What Tennille told us was she get boxes of them. She couldn’t get any of the schools to take them, and they would end up recycling them, and just seemed wasteful. And that there is a better way to do literacy.”
Patty Scott, Bill Grile and Tennille Wetherill, who you haven’t met yet. We’re right there. Is a better way to do literacy and through Rotary. You can be a part of a project to inspire children.
“A guy named John Jorgenson from Wyoming is the one who really started Gift of Literacy and it’s a tribute to his late wife, Sue who tragically died in a car accident. To honor her, what Mr. Jorgensen wanted to do was launched a literacy program. And so he has done that incredibly successfully in Wyoming, but it has grown and spread to other States as well, including Oregon.”
Here in Oregon clubs, including Springfield, Bend and Klamath Falls. Coos Bay North. Bend each has started a Gift of Literacy project. Putting hundreds of books each year into hundreds of first graders hands as a volunteer Rotarian in this project, you do more than give books though. Like Tim Novotny here.
“What we are reading today is a book called “On Account of the Gum.” Let’s take a look and ive into this book. Somebody’s sleeping not ready to wake up, but they accidentally must have fallen asleep with some gum in their mouth. That’s the gum right there that you got in your hair.”
“I was thinking about the meaning of Rotary and the and the positives around Rotary. What I think rotary does really well is that they take the talents and gifts and professional connections of all of its members. To identify ways to lift up and support Community efforts.”
Okay. So now you’ve met to Tonelle Whetheral, a Rotarian. Also, at the time, this project started. She was the superintendent of the South Coast Education Service District, and she had connections with all of the first grade teachers on the Southern Oregon coast.
“We select the librarian that a team of folks. Select books for first graders. Engaging books, about culture and fun books about losing your first tooth. Also about family and different geography. Places, geography. They select a set of books. And the Rotarian’s, we buy them and we distribute them to every first grade teacher.”
“The first grade teacher then reads the books throughout a six or seven month time period. At some point, the students get to pick their favorite book, out of the group and we order it for them. And finally, we have an event and the event is at our local community college. So that our students can travel to a Higher Education, location, and really begin to see themselves in schooling beyond High School.”
“Selfishly, as the president of the college, we had tried over the years here to try to engage students at a younger age. And so I saw this is a way to get them on a college campus at six. Which was held. That was the first time I went to a college campus and I remember that.”
This book event is all about fun. As many as 700 first graders from throughout the region, come to the Southwestern Oregon Community College’s campus. Buses roll up one by one. First graders flood out of the buses into the gymnasium. They’re greeted by cheering Mascots from their schools and a crowd of Rotarian’s and other volunteers.
“And we do a skit to demonstrate why it’s important to keep reading. You know, so that you can read a menu. So that you, you know, which restroom to go in and tie it to careers.”
“And then we have celebrity readers and those celebrity readers are frontline workers in our community. They are firefighters and they are nurses, and they are a culinary staff. And we have a judge who comes every year.”
“And then, the most exciting thing is, they get a bag, like a little book or a backpack bag, that is filled with careers coloring book. That is given by produced by the college. Bookmarks, pencil. All kinds of different things, it varies every year and then we do a big countdown and the bags get distributed. And, you know, of course, a little first grader wants to open the bag. And we don’t let them. It’s called “the Big Reveal” and we countdown.”
“It’s like Christmas Day, opening presents. And the kids eyes get big, and they open it up and there’s that book, their favorite book out of the five that were read to them.”
“Right now. Just thinking about every kid, gets the book that they selected of the several that are read to him during the year, which is really, really cool. And for some, some kids. It’s the first book they’ve ever had.”
“And it’s a beautiful experience and we get to do that with Partners from the community. We get to do that with Partners from Rotarian groups, in different cities.
“And we get the books at a really good discount about forty percent off because we get them through the library buying system. Otherwise this program would be very, very expensive.”
“I imagine some folks, might be wondering how can my Rotary group do this. And what would it cost to provide 700 books for700 First graders.”
“It costs about $25 to $30 per kid.”
“We’ve had some, some generous sponsors, but the way the Springfield program has grown is that they have significant sponsorship’s. And so plug, plug, if you’re out there in our community and you’d like to support literacy. This is a great way to do it. You know, it’s a Hands-On project for Rotarian’s to. We need volunteers.”
“One of the things about Rotary is It invests in its youth. It has a number of Youth related programs.”
“Any rotary club or community group, who’s interested In this project? They just have to think through how the context that best works for them and the outcomes that they want for their Community.”
Hey, if you think your club wants to do this, be a part of the Gift of Literacy, then, reach out to some of the clubs that have already done it successfully, they’ll help.
“Springfield Gift of Literacy. Crop Club was an absolute help to us. Our Rotary group, and our steering committee is absolutely dedicated to any person who wants to do this. We really want to be a support to ensuring that this project continues in other places that has a desire to do so.”
“So, where do we look it up? Do you have a website?”
Yeah, we do. We have a website called The Gift of Literacy.”
Got that? Do a search for Rotary International District, 5110 Gift of Literacy. Thanks for listening.