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The Rotary Club of Greenville started “Read-to-Me” Program in 1995. In 2014 the club had approximately 50 Rotarians reading aloud to children at 10 sites in Greenville. The newest site is Frazee Dream Center. Greenville Rotarians read to approximately 450 children each week.
For many years, Rotarians have been active in efforts to reduce illiteracy. Close to a billion people worldwide lack the most basic literacy and numeracy skills. Many more are functionally illiterate, lacking the skills necessary to meet the demands of everyday life.
The ability to read and write and do simple math is not only critical to progress and prosperity, it is necessary for the very survival of individuals in a modern society. Those who cannot read and write will always be on the periphery of prosperity in our nation.
Literacy is not just a third-world problem. The number of functionally illiterate in the Greenville area is startling. The National Institute for Literacy reports that 20% of the adults in Greenville County function at 5th grade level or below in reading and math. Statewide, that number climbs to 25%. There are homes without books, magazines and newspapers in Greenville. There are homes in which parents are working two jobs and they have no time to read to their children. Children in these homes experience a “poverty of words”, hearing approximately 600 words a day compared to 2150 words a day in a professional home. A nationwide study revealed that 40% of fathers NEVER read to children.
As reading is the vehicle for learning in school, some children enter school unprepared for success. Because we know that 90% of the brain’s growth occurs from birth to 5 years of age, language development of all children must be a priority. One of the primary findings in A Nation of Readers is that “The single most important activity for building the knowledge required for eventual success in reading is reading aloud to children.”