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Opening doors through literacy

Posted: February 12, 2014 - 1:01am

This column may not be written for you.

It’s about literacy, and since you’re reading this it probably means you’re a capable reader. But according to the 2010 census, 6.6 percent of Juneau’s population — roughly 2,000 people — aren’t literate in English. We also have a significant number of students who are not reading at grade level by third grade, a critical marker for future school success. Through third grade, you learn to read. After third grade, you read to learn.

What’s the big deal? Why should you care about Juneau’s literacy rate? Because a higher literacy rate leads to lower crime and unemployment rates. It also leads to higher voter turnout and increased graduation rates. In fact, almost every positive social indicator goes up as literacy improves.

Rotary Clubs support their communities and they support literacy worldwide for just the reasons stated. A town that reads better is a better town. To that end, the Juneau Rotary Clubs have joined together in a campaign called: Opening Doors through Literacy. We intend to make Juneau the most literate town in America, and you play the most important role.

Teach your children, grandchildren, nieces and nephews to read. Give them books for gifts. Take them to the library. Volunteer to help through United Way’s Literacy Program supported by Coeur Alaska and Rotary. (For more on this programs visit www.unitedwayseak.org.) Volunteer to tutor an adult or English as a second language student at SERRC. Be a Big Brother or Big Sister.

Are your kids pre-schoolers? Sign them up for the Dolly Parton Imagination Library and have a book sent personally to them every month. Enrollment forms are available at local libraries, Head Start programs, and for new babies you’ll find the forms at either Bartlett Regional Hospital or Juneau Family Health and Birth Center.

Subscribe to the local newspaper. Discuss articles that you read with coworkers, family or friends. Join a book club. Subscribe to a magazine or two. Set aside at least one night a week where you ask your family to come to the table ready to discuss something they’ve read. Submit your five favorite books to Five Good Reads at the Empire.

Take the pledge to read at least 20 minutes a day. You’ll find the pledge form in the Juneau Empire’s Sunday edition, at your library, from any Rotarian or you can download it off our new website www.juneaurotaryliteracy.org. We have posters you can put up at work or post on your Facebook page.

To pitch in on one of these ideas or for more, contact Literacy Chair Heather Mitchell at readingtutor@unitedwayseak.org.

Thanks to KTOO, KINY, TAKU 105, KJNO and the Juneau Empire, you’ll be hearing and reading messages that promote literacy and reading. Check juneaurotaryliteracy.org frequently for new content, including videos that can show you how to make reading more fun, and links to sites that can expand your reading opportunities.

Join us, and Juneau will become the most literate small town in America. In doing so, we will prosper — economically, socially and physically.

Thanks for reading. And, if you know someone who can’t read this, read it to them. Then volunteer to help them learn.

• Brenda Hewitt is president of the Rotary Club of Juneau.

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