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Shepherdstown Rotary hosts reading program

August 24, 2009

SHEPHERDSTOWN, W.Va. -- The Shepherdstown Rotary Club recently sponsored its annual Rotary Reads Day, a literacy project designed to encourage youngsters to spend more time reading.

Now in its fourth year, the project recruits Rotary Club members to serve as reading mentors for local children.

This year's project was a collaboration among the Shepherdstown Public Library, Shepherdstown Day Care, the Four Seasons Bookstore and the Shepherdstown Men's Club.

Children from the day care center met at the library to be introduced to their individual mentors. Each mentor and child then walked to the bookstore, where they selected a book that was purchased by the mentor. They then went to the Men's Club's War Memorial Building and read the book together.

As is always the case, the children got to keep their books and take them home.

In all, 15 Rotarians and 13 children participated.

While the children are the obvious beneficiaries of the project, the Rotary volunteers also benefit. Shepherdstown Library Director Hali Taylor said, "It is wonderful to see the kids' responses to the event but I have to say, it's priceless to see an adult, who in some cases has had no contact with nonfamily youngsters in years, reconnect to that spark in a child's eyes and heart."

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Shepherdstown Rotary President Doug Alexander said the project is a good example of community groups cooperating and pooling resources to assist one another in combined projects.

Anne Eden, who works in the library's children's section, stressed the importance of emphasizing literacy at an early age.

"Literacy is the ability to read and write," she said. "According to the National Institute for Literacy, babies and children need to learn that objects have names, that letters have sounds and that letters can be combined to make words.

"Literacy begins at home: parents need to talk to, sing to and read with their children. School-age children who read less, learn less and are more likely to drop out of school and go to jail. Eighty-two percent of prison inmates are school dropouts and 60 percent are illiterate. Children and adolescents need to practice reading until it becomes fun and easy, since reading is the most important subject in school, as it enables a student to master most other school subjects. A literate person has learned many skills, such as how to fill out a form, balance a checkbook and understand a newspaper article, and is able to function in society. Everybody wins, when everybody reads."

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