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home : education : schools April 28, 2016

6/4/2013 2:20:00 PM
Rotary Club gets kids excited about reading
Youngsters received the gift of books from Sisters Rotary. photo by Kathryn Godsiff
+ click to enlarge
Youngsters received the gift of books from Sisters Rotary. photo by Kathryn Godsiff

By Kathryn Godsiff

The Rotary Club of Sisters supports literacy projects and a club favorite happened last Friday when 130 first graders from Sisters and Tumalo gathered in Sisters Community Church's big hall to celebrate reading.

Former Sisters head librarian and long-time Rotarian Peg Bermel heads up a committee that for several years has provided books to every first-grade student in Sisters, and more recently, Camp Sherman and Tumalo.

The 1st Grade Book Project actually had its start in Wyoming, as a memorial to a woman named Sue Jorgensen. She died in a car accident, leaving her husband, John, and five children behind. When the family had weathered the worst of their grief at losing their mother, they got together to decide how to best honor her.

As John Jorgensen told the crowd of first graders last Friday, "My youngest son was your age when his mother died. We thought about what she cared about most, and that was reading and children."

The program began in 1999 and is now called Wyoming Reads. It is so successful in that state that the governor declares a statewide literacy day each year to coincide with the presentation of books to the children. The idea spread to other states, with several Rotary clubs in Oregon sponsoring the program in their communities.

Jorgensen, who was present for the Sisters event, started the festivities with a story. The tale, about a good queen, a bad grinch, a kingdom full of books and book-loving first graders, involved the students all shouting, "Sniggledy-snead, I want to read!" as loudly as they could as the story unfolded. Some of the kids were heard repeating the phrase as they left the event.

The project begins in the winter when first-grade teachers, in collaboration with Bermel, choose six books to read to their students. The students then select a favorite to become their own. The books are purchased from Paulina Springs Books by Rotary, and a nameplate ensures each one is personalized. In addition, the children receive a small backpack filled with activity items donated by Rotarians, Deschutes Library System, Washington Federal Bank and US Bank, and the US Forest Service.

Friday's action included interactive songs led by Anvil Blasters Mike Biggers, Jim Cornelius and Lynn Woodward.

For some students, the backpacks revealed the first book they've ever received. Others will add it to already existing libraries in their homes. All the students were excited to open their packs and take out the new books.

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