Taking Aim at Literacy: Rotary Reading Rangers

Hey Pod’na, I’m Todd Taylor and another old cowboy, President Don Stanger, asked me to herd you doggies into one of the most important missions we have undertaken in many a moon. So lets put the cowboy stuff aside for awhile and get down to business.

One of this year’s major strategic objectives for the Durham Rotary Club is taking aim on the issue of literacy inDurham.   Some studies show that 44% of Durham Students are illiterate; this is a significant social issue.

To begin tackling this issue, our club has partnered with the East Durham Children’s Initiative (EDCI), Bootstraps, Teach for America, Southwest Durham Rotary and local schools YE Smith Elementary, Neal Middle and Southern High School.  Our method is to start small and grow our participation.  Durham Rotary has formed Rotary’s Reading Rangers, volunteers to work with teachers and help students read.  We have begun with YE Smith Elementary School.  In the 2011-2012 school year, Rotarians volunteered to assist teachers in Kindergarten – 2nd grade by reading with students.  In the 2012-2013 school year,Durham and Southwest Rotary Clubs have secured a matching grant from the Rotary District to provide $3800 to the school library.  These funds will be used to purchase up to date non-fiction books to allow students to do current research and study.  In conjunction with the book purchase, the Rotary Reading Rangers will continue.  Our goal is to provide at least 4 reading partners per week.  Each Reading Ranger will read and work with a child or group of children for an hour per session.   Obviously the more volunteers we get, the more students we can assist.

This effort would serve as a basis to learn lessons on ways to inspire kids to read.  To encourage children, and ensure success, it is recommended that Rotarians invest some time reading to a child.  Taking an hour during the school day to read to a child, demonstrates that reading is important and the child is worth an adult’s time.  Many of the students at YE Smith do not have much one-on-one parental or adult interaction around reading.  Rotary’s Reading Rangers will provide that attention to the children.

  • Rangers would begin in September and will continue throughout the remainder of the school year.  If successful, we will look to organize something to keep up the effort over the following summer when children tend to ignore their reading skills.
  • Volunteers would be expected to read for at least an hour with a child.
  • Volunteers would communicate with the school coordinator to ensure the child’s work was documented: credit, star, vote, etc.
  • Volunteers would have to register online with Durham Public Schools as a volunteer.  The process takes about 2 weeks.  https://ec.volunteernow.com/recruiter/index.php?class=VolunteerRegistration&recruiterID=1343
  • Volunteers are allowed to keep all smiles and goodwill from the children.

The growth potential will be evaluated as the program unfolds.  Interested volunteers will be given some basic training the methods and processes the school prefers.  We hope to expand the program to include some after school opportunities.  We understand the school day is challenging for many club members.  Additionally, we will strive to work with parents so the support network at home is strengthened.  Often the parents are insecure about their abilities to support the children and we hope to encourage and support the family unit as we grow the program.

The program is not limited to Rotary Members only.  If members have co-worker that is interested in helping, all they need to do is register with DPS as indicated above and they may participate.  This has the benefit of expanding the program outside Rotary to the wider community and showing the community some of the work Rotary does.  Time tables and opportunities will be clearly presented and communicated. 

We are proud of this initiative and look forward to taking aim on literacy and making a positive impact on our community and the future of these children.  Please consider joining the Reading Rangers in this important work.

Submitted by Todd Taylor


  1. Robert Gutman says:

    I got this far in the website and no further in trying to find the rest of t he story that appeared in my inbox. Where do I go to find it?

  2. Robert Gutman says:

    Thanks to Jay Zenner, this old guy found the way in. I will report that I have enjoyed the opportunity and think it very worth while. Others should try. The sad news is that of the four second grade students assigned to me, none an read beyond kindergarten level and only on has mastered most of first grade. But they are enthusiastic and the teacher is excellent. I expect I will see a sharp upward trajectory.


  1. […] book drive. Please contact Todd Taylor to become a Reading Ranger and join this exciting program at http://durhamrotaryclub.org/2012/08/reading-rangers/. Dr. Ferebee cautioned you will build attachments to these children, and he knows of cases where […]

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