Literacy plays a central role in this year’s Rotary international theme, Create Hope in the World. Without reading one cannot actively participate in job seeking, getting a driver’s licence, read labels on medicine bottles, help with a child’s homework, or even readily participate on social media. Poor reading skills can result in lack of self-esteem, poverty, unemployment and even incarceration.

District 9910 is one of the few districts in New Zealand, in fact one of the few districts in the world, to run a Literacy Committee.

In response to one of Rotary’s seven areas of focus – the promotion of literacy and numeracy among all people in the world – Past District Governor Bob Baird established the committee in the 1990s. Bob was a school principal so had a good idea of the importance of literacy.

PICTURED: DG Elaine Mead with St Joseph’s students looking up ‘electricity’ in their new Illustrated Dictionaries.

Under his initial guidance, a committee of about 15 Rotarians from a variety of backgrounds was established and is still working strongly today. The group meets every three months, either in person or by Zoom, and the committee chair provides a formal report to each of the District Management Committee meetings. The aim of the committee is to improve literacy in D9910 and nationally.

Over the years the committee has undertaken a wide variety of programs. The current ones include support for the provision of illustrated dictionaries to schools and individual students; support for the Duffy Books in Homes program; support for an environmental program of Maori and Western Science, especially in the flora of the far north of New Zealand; and support for the Vanuatu Little Stars Summer School. The Vanuatu connection comes from committee members visiting Vanuatu and teaching local educators about early reading techniques and using a Foundation grant to translate some NZ teaching material into French.

The committee has also established an international link with the Basic Education and Literacy Rotary Action Group (BELRAG).

Currently, they are preparing to expand their areas of interest to include promoting a wider understanding of dyslexia as well as supporting the promotion of mental wellbeing among children to help their understanding of literacy and thereby enjoy learning.

For more information, contact Committee Chair Geoff Chamberlain via geoff@chamberlainz.com or +64 221 240 455.