In 2005, Olathe Mayor Michael Copeland met with Olathe Schools Superintendent Pat All to discuss ways in which he could work with Olathe Schools to improve childhood literacy. In September, 2005, the "I Read With Mayor Mike" program was launched.
As the "I Read With Mayor Mike" partnership between the City of Olathe and Olathe Schools progressed, the Olathe Public Library joined with the City and Olathe Schools to form OLATHE READS, a community-wide consortium whose purpose is to promote the value and importance of reading. The City of Olathe seeks to be known as a "City of Readers.
The OLATHE READS goal is to bring literacy initiatives throughout Olathe under one umbrella, pooling the resources, expertise, and influence of the City of Olathe, the Olathe School District, and the Public Library to more effectively reach the community and accomplish the community's literacy goals. Although the current emphasis is on children, OLATHE READS will eventually embrace new and existing literacy programs for older students and adults as well. While OLATHE READS has no paid staff members, an OLATHE READS Steering Committee, comprised of representatives from the Public Library, City of Olathe, and Olathe Schools, is leading the effort. An important goal in the near future is to work with KSD educators to identify areas in which OLATHE READS can make a positive impact on literacy programs for KSD students, as well as Olathe's large deaf and hard of hearing population.
The scope and outreach of OLATHE READS will continue to evolve as additional literacy goals are established. There are three OLATHE READS initiatives currently underway: (1) "I Read With Mayor Mike" – Mayor Michael Copeland's reading initiative in Olathe's Title 1 elementary schools; (2) expansion and promotion of the Olathe Public Library's Summer Reading Club; and (3) support for the Library's Daycare Outreach Program. The OLATHE READS Steering Committee has identified these three projects as having significant potential for promoting the importance of reading in the community.
Olathe Public Library Summer Reading Club – The OLATHE READS Steering Committee quickly identified the Summer Reading Club as a critical part of promoting reading in the community, as research shows that there can be a significant drop in reading ability over the summer. Children who participate are provided with Summer Reading Club folders which serve as reading logs for recording the number and titles of books read and the library programs attended over the summer months. Each student is also given a free paperback book as part of the program.
Thanks to the increased support and publicity provided by OLATHE READS, 2006 participation in the Summer Reading Club increased by 83%, which was an incredible jump in just one year! An end of summer event was held with a special concert provided by "Trout Fishing in America." It was noted by the library that adult summer reading also increased.
Olathe Public Library Daycare Story time Outreach Program—The Olathe Public Library's Daycare Story time Outreach Program utilizes volunteers who are assigned to area daycare centers to read stories to preschool-age children, an effective way to share the joy of reading with children who may not normally visit the Public Library. The program is offered to Kansas Department of Social and Rehabilitation Services (SRS) contracted daycare centers, with the hope of reaching lower-income children who may have limited exposure to books, reading aloud, and the Public Library.
Funding for OLATHE READS has been provided through generous grants from the Comcast Foundation and Wal-Mart, Olathe District Schools, and other community donors – a clear reflection of the brad-based community support that exists for the initiative. Grant funds provided to OLATHE READS allowed the Library to purchase a new selection of hardback books to be used exclusively for the Daycare Story time Outreach Program.