The Olathe Rotary Club established a goal to be a part of the Rotarian’s International Reading initiative in 1998. They did so by implementing the Rotary Reading Program for Olathe elementary students. Their desire was to assist in improving student reading and listening skills.
More than 50 Rotarians committed themselves to read to children in Olathe District Schools once a month. Through this program at least one, and sometimes more than one, reader was assigned to each of Olathe’s 26 elementary schools. They were assigned to a grade level, which might consist of one class or several classes of students. They arrive for 20-30 minute reading sessions and interacted with students through questions and answers about the story at the end of the activity.
During 1999, the club split into a morning and noon club, but the commitment continued. Olathe Seniors Serving Schools coordinators schedule Rotarians and track their volunteer hours. In 2000, a new elementary school was added, and now Rotarians, who continue to read to the elementary students, cover 27 schools. This is the third year for the Rotary Readers and each year, they extend the commitment to continue this program.
Rotarians not only read to students, they also give of themselves through sharing of personal information, dressing up for the occasions to emphasize a book, and just interacting with children. Occasionally, special treats are provided as an added incentive for the children. The reading provides a connection with the community through outside human resources, and the volunteers are role models the children look forward to seeing. These volunteers range from corporate professionals, State Senators, State Representatives, and other community members. Though their daily duties differ, they share a common bond of being part of the educational process for the children in the community.
The Rotarians monitor reader attendance and their service to the students. Currently, 50 members of Olathe’s Rotary Clubs provide over 450 hours of reading time to more than 2,600 elementary students annually. The Olathe Noon and Santa Fe Trail Rotary clubs provide a measure of excellence in the Olathe Community that motivates the children to succeed.