Quality Education and Literacy Changes Lives

By Carolyn Johnson, Chair of the Basic Education and Literacy Rotary Action Group

“Reading changed my life,” declared the twelve-year-old boy from the back row of the class. This reaction was in response to asking students what they thought about the books that Rotary club and district programs provided to their classrooms in rural Guatemala. In addition to quality children’s and adolescent literature, these programs provide professional development for teachers – training and support in strategies to inspire and engage their students as readers. These students and their teachers are learning that ‘reading’ is not rote identification of words on a page, but an opportunity to get involved and be inspired by stories, learn about far-away places, and meet people who have changed the world. Education is the key to opening doors to the world, yet many cannot access that opportunity. Rotary members change lives by ensuring that students have access to books, to technology, and to well-trained, inspiring teachers.

September is Basic Education and Literacy Month, a time for Rotary members to focus awareness on our involvement with literacy and education and recommit to finding solutions that meet needs of illiteracy and gaps in education in our own communities and internationally.

BELRAG, Basic Education and Literacy Rotary Action Group, is committed to supporting Rotary members in their efforts to bring awareness to the severity of illiteracy throughout the world and its impact on the quality of life. We first encourage every Rotary and Rotaract club to look within their own community to identify opportunities to make a difference locally. Consider the variety of needs and projects where your club can make a difference:

  • Early learning: projects to support literacy rich, hands-on activities where children can explore and experiment in their environment.
  • Educating girls: partnerships to promote girls’ re-entry to school: prior to COVID, 79 million girls did not attend school; an additional 20 million girls may never return to classes when schools reopen.
  • Access for children with disabilities: identify and address the range of barriers and lack of professional expertise that prevent children with varied physical or intellectual abilities from attending school and fully participating in learning.
  • Mentoring out of school or underperforming youth: school closures from COVID increased the number of children not meeting minimum reading levels by at least 15%. Consider partnerships to develop learning opportunities outside the traditional school day or classroom setting.
  • Technology to enhance basic classroom instruction: take a pro-active approach to encourage and support the safe and responsible use of technology to improve the quality of education.
  • Adult literacy: 781 million adults are illiterate: two thirds of them are women. Establish convenient, accessible programs to enable adult learners to acquire competency in reading and numeracy skills.
  • Professional development: as in every profession, teachers must have the opportunity for continuous learning and upgraded skills. Identify on-going programs to support literacy or numeracy instruction, classroom management, use of technology, or strategies to promote hands-on learning.
  • Access to libraries and other literacy resources: ensure that students have choices from a wide variety of quality reading materials in their native language. There is no better inspiration for readers than access to a rich resource of books – in the classroom or through libraries.
  • Numeracy: develop programs to support students in acquiring basic math skills and concepts such as counting, solving number problems, estimating, measuring, sorting, and noticing patterns.

BELRAG can assist your club by providing information and support for your basic education and literacy projects. We offer informational programs to clubs and webinars to create better awareness of illiteracy and spotlight excellent projects where clubs can get involved or replicate. Our Professional Experts Teams can offer advice for project development, implementation, and monitoring.

Literacy Month Awards
Each year, BELRAG offers $500 awards for exemplary community-based projects. For example, last year, three Rotary clubs and one Rotaract club were selected to receive the award for their outstanding projects. You can read about the previous awardees and their projects here.

We are now accepting applications for the 2022 Literacy Awards through 30 September. Review the contest flier and these points of consideration.

We are also pleased to announce that, through our partnership with Save the Children, Early Learning Grants are offered to clubs serving rural, high poverty communities in the US. Grants are available for up to $15,000. Projects should promote early learning, Kindergarten readiness, 3rd grade reading proficiency and/or 5th grade math proficiency.

As Nelson Mandela said “Education is the most powerful weapon which you can use to change the world”. When we engage with projects that promote quality education and literacy we can truly change lives, change the world. If, as Rotary members, we focus our attention on quality education for every community, we could prevent many of the other challenges as well such as lack of access to clean water, poor health, conflict, and environmental degradation. BELRAG is helping Rotary members meet this challenge. Won’t you join us?

BELRAG Chair Carolyn Johnson can be reached at cfj2@icloud.com. Find more information about BELRAG by visiting www.BELRAG.org.

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