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SPOTLIGHT ON LITERACY: FROM DIAPERS TO DIPLOMAS

If you teach a child to read, you can literally save their life. Without strong literacy skills, many children will experience academic failure, enter the school-to-prison pipeline, and be unable to lead full and productive lives. That’s why the West Olympia Rotary used a District 5020 Matching Grant to collaborate with three of its long-standing non-profit partners in an effort to bolster literacy services that were lost during the Covid 19 Pandemic. The grant project – Spotlight on Literacy: From Diapers to Diplomas – rolled out in three phases.

Phase I: Diapers

Working with the Child Care Action Council (CCAC) Raising a Reader program, the West Olympia Rotary supported the implementation of two family-oriented literacy events designed to help young children develop social skills missed during the pandemic. The superhero themed events provided families with two popular picture books “Even Superheroes Make Mistakes” and “Even Superheroes Have Bad Days” (labeled with the West Olympia Rotary logo), along with superhero masks and capes and supplies for each child to decorate the capes to show off their own superpowers. The events were designed to be a model for future events/services.

Phase II: School Age

Working with the South Sound Reading Foundation (SSRF), the West Olympia Rotary supported the purchase, preparation, and distribution of over 1,000 beautiful “brand-spankin’ new” books for school-aged children. 

During the pandemic, SSRF was unable to do in-person events that allowed them to personalize book selections for children. West Olympia Rotarians helped process the new high-interest, multiculturally-themed books, label them with the West Olympia Rotary logo, and prepare them for distribution at re-established in-person events.

Phase III: Diplomas

Sound Learning (SL) is a community-based organization that provides basic education and English Language classes for adult learners working towards their GED, high school diploma, or preparation for employment or higher education. Their model is heavily dependent on volunteers who provide one-on-one or small-group tutoring. During the pandemic, SL’s volunteer pool dropped from 30+ down to only 4 individuals. West Olympia Rotary supported Sound Learning as they implemented a new outreach and training campaign to update and shore up their critically important volunteer base. 

In 2022, West Olympia Rotarians participated in the first Spell E Bration community spelling bee since the pandemic and won first place! They will be defending their title later this year.

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