Rotarians honored for promoting literacy
The Rotary Club of Rockford, Michigan, USA, will be recognized for Reading Rocks, an annual festival that promotes reading. Photo by Susan Bodenner/Rotary Club of Rockford
Two Rotary clubs are being honored 7 September at an International Literacy Day celebration in Washington, D.C., as the winners of the RI-International Reading Association-Pearson Foundation Literacy Project Awards.
A panel of Rotarians and International Reading Association (IRA) members gave the award to the Rotary Clubs of Rockford, Michigan, USA, and Salem, Oregon, USA, for demonstrating outstanding collaboration with local reading councils in their communities. Each club will receive US$2,500 for literacy projects.
“Teaching all children to read requires not only teachers who know how to reach every child but communities that value and support literacy,” says Richard Long, director of government relations for the International Reading Association. “These two projects highlight the notion that it is a partnership that teaches reading: the community to provide the tools and to say it is important and the teacher to bring it all together for each learner.”
The IRA is a professional membership organization dedicated to promoting high levels of literacy by improving the quality of reading instruction, disseminating research findings and information about reading, and encouraging a lifetime of reading. The IRA network comprises 70,000 members and more than 300,000 affiliate members in nearly 100 countries, including councils and affiliates at the local, state, regional, or national level.
Since 2002, Rotary and the IRA have combined their resources and skills as service partners to advance literacy in communities worldwide. Rotary clubs and districts are encouraged to share resources and information with IRA councils and affiliates to develop cooperative literacy projects.
The Rockford club won its award for Reading Rocks, an annual reading festival that takes place in August. The club partners with the local reading council, school district, and library district for the daylong event, which includes live entertainment, a parade, and family activities that promote the importance of literacy.
Neil Blakeslee, 1988-89 president of the Rockford club, says that his community sees reading not only as a fundamental skill but as a way to enhance every aspect of an individual’s life.
“Receiving recognition for a necessary job well done gives us all a great sense of accomplishment and validation of our efforts,” Blakeslee says. “Winning awards is not as important as the achievement, but awards do provide encouragement for continued efforts.”
Making books for children
The Salem club was chosen in recognition of a bookmaking project for schoolchildren in Santa Avelina, Guatemala. With the help of the Vineyard Valleys Reading Council, volunteers from both organizations put together children’s books for The William M. Botnan Experimental School, where all 130 elementary students speak Cozal Ixil, a Mayan language. The project is an effort to preserve culture through the indigenous language, which is not recognized or taught in public schools.
Jayne Downing, a member of the Salem club, says the club’s Youth Literacy Committee selects projects they believe will have the greatest impact for at-risk children, whether in their local community or around the world.
“We were honored to be connected with the Guatemalan project for many reasons, including the ability to make even a small difference in reducing barriers and increasing access through such literacy projects,” Downing says. “The recognition brought by this award will allow greater visibility to the project and the needs of this community.”
The United Nation’s International Literacy Day 8 September focuses attention on worldwide literacy needs. How is your club celebrating Literacy Day? Tell us in the comments section below.