Long Beach Rotary steps up to foster Literacy Youngsters are helped to read at the grade level through a Reading by 9 programme of the club which had donated a lot of books and money for the success of the project.

Rotarian Frank Newell talks about Long Beach Rotary's efforts while club president Gail Schwandner listens. Photo: Amy Orr, Gazette
Rotarian Frank Newell talks about Long Beach Rotary’s efforts while club president Gail Schwandner listens. Photo: Amy Orr, Gazette

In the words of Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis, “There are many little ways to enlarge your child’s world. Love of books is the best of all.”

According to the National Research Council, “academic success, as defined by high school graduation, can be predicted with reasonable accuracy by knowing someone’s reading skill at the end of third grade.”

For this reason, the LA Times, Scholastic Books, and the Rotary club joined forces in 1999 for a “Reading by 9” programme.

On Oct 17, the Rotary Club of Long Beach (California, US – D 5300) met on the Queen Mary to celebrate its 20th anniversary of supporting this cause.

Intent on helping youngsters read at grade level by age 9, the Rotary Club of Long Beach has made significant donations of books and money.

Prior to the Oct 17 luncheon, the club had generated a 20-year total of $620,000 and 250,000 books, according to Frank Newell, chair of the Long Beach Rotary Literacy Committee.

An additional $55,040 was raised at the luncheon, bringing the total to $675,000.

Over the year, this money has been distributed in a variety of ways.

LBUSD library curriculum leader Crystal Miranda said that Rotary contributes Scholastic paperbacks to library and classroom collections.

The club also provides Long Beach schools with a number of library-bound, shelf-ready copies and some unlimited, simultaneous-access electronic books.

“The wealth of resources they have brought to our kids over the years has been amazing,” Miranda said.

In addition, Rotary gives grants to help teachers with early reading initiatives.

For example, grant recipient Sylvia Renteria, 2nd grade teacher at Jenny Orpeza Elementary, used Rotary funds to purchase four Chromebooks for home-based student reading.

Renteria said these devices have increased youngsters’ enthusiasm and desire to read.

The Rotary Club of Long Beach also supports local learning centers.

Children Today is a nonprofit that provides early care and education to children between 6 weeks and 5 years old, many of whom have experienced homelessness, foster care or adoption.

“Thanks to Rotary, we’ve been able to purchase books that reflect our children’s life experiences,” Children Today’s executive director, Tonya Burns, said.

“The kids hear stories they can relate to, which helps them feel connected and not so different from everyone else.”

As part of the Long Beach chapter’s Centennial Celebration in 2017, the club donated $250,000 to fund the Rotary Early Childhood Literacy Area and Storytime Theater in the Long Beach Main Library. This structure is slated to open next summer.

Kate Azar, executive director of the Long Beach Public Library Foundation, acknowledged the club’s incredible generosity and said, “the work that Rotary does, putting books into the hands of children is critical; it impacts our community and our economy.”

Rotary’s commitment to reading is not limited to fundraising.

Since 1994, a group of Long Beach Rotarians have participated in a programme called Rotary Reads.

Now under the leadership of Paul Kennard, these volunteers make regular visits to LBUSD elementary classrooms and Childhood Development Centers (CDC) to deliver books and read to children.

Cindy Young, LBUSD CDC and Kids Club Director, stressed the importance of this work, noting that low income students are typically exposed to far fewer words than their same-age peers.

“The CDC is trying to level the playing field and Reading by 9 supports this goal,” Young said.

“We are very fortunate to receive funding from the Rotary Club of Long Beach. Rotary truly is ‘ordinary people doing extraordinary things.’”

Source: The Grunion

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