The Rotary Club of Hilo is making a difference in the lives of kindergarten students.
The club initiated Rotary in Kindergarten (R.I.K.), a Read Aloud program, during the 2013-14 school year.
R.I.K. was enthusiastically received by principals, teachers and students at 10 of East Hawaii’s participating elementary schools. Member and former school superintendent Glenn R. Harris, who was involved with establishing similar programs on the mainland, introduced R.I.K. to the club and leads the project.
Twenty Rotarians volunteered to read to kindergarten classes, once a month, using a book published by Scholastic. The book was then donated to the class and a copy of every third book read aloud was donated to each student to have as his or her own.
This program serviced more than 400 kindergarten students per month at an annual cost of only $5.50 per student, adding more than two hours of increased Read Aloud time per child.
Eager students, waiting to be read to, greet volunteers each month. Stories include “Curious George” by H.A. Rey and “Don’t Let the Pigeon Drive the Bus” by Mo Williams.
Before reading, Rotarians talk about the author and illustrator. Students are given time to ask questions, express feeling and personal experiences relating to the story. Children come back to school the next day after their Read Aloud session sharing interesting stories about their new book and feeling greatly rewarded for their participation in the program.
At the end of the year, participating teachers were given a lei, an appreciation certificate and a $25 gift certificate to spend on classroom supplies. Teachers and volunteers also were asked to evaluate the program.
With positive results from principals, teachers and students, the R.I.K. program is preparing to kick off its second year this month.