An Interview with Tulelake Rotarian Katie Walker
September is Literacy Month but the Rotary Club of Tulelake is on it year-round.
This summer they received two grants – one to help prevent the “summer slide” in student learning by encouraging reading and the other to help feed youth.
It’s hard to focus when you’re hungry. It’s hard to do a lot of things when you’re hungry. Tulelake Rotary knows that.
They gave their three local libraries food bags to offer students in addition to books – one library in the California library system and two satellite libraries in Oregon. Although their club serves both states these Rotarians don’t see borders, they meet the needs of rural families.
In a community where many people struggle to pay for gas or do not have transportation at all the Tulelake Library saw attendance at their weekly storytime double from five to 10 with Rotary funding this summer. That might not sound like a lot in larger towns but it is exactly the growth this club was hoping for.
At the Merrill and Malin satellite libraries, not only did attendance grow at their weekly storytime but participation increased. 20-30 kids each week were enrolled in the Summer Reading Program at each location logging their reading hours and competing for prizes.
They also gave food bags to local elementary school summer programs, in partnership with Save the Children, and distributed fresh produce for five weeks at the Merrill Clinic in Oregon and the Tulelake-Newell family resource center in California for youth and their families.
But what about snacks, you ask? They provided that too!
The Tiny Mighty & Strong summer camp is a nonprofit that offers rural kids everything from ballet to karate to summer camps for kids who can’t get to activities in Klamath Falls as easily. Tulelake Rotary was happy to help them.
“I just love it!” Katie says, her excitement tangible. “I love the direction our club is going.”
Literacy matters all year. So they’re also supporting Reach Out and Read – a program that partners with local pediatricians to encourage parents to read age-appropriate books to their children.
At every well-child visit, a nurse will give each family a book for their child. By the time a child reaches age five, they will have received 13 books of their own. This costs the local Sanford Children’s Clinic about $8,000 per year.
When the clinic literacy program ran out of money last year, the Tulelake Rotary Club was there to help. Nurse Katie Walker applied to Save The Children for the first time. She was awarded $10,000.
With the extra $2,000 they were able to give out hundreds of books to 215 Tulelake Elementary school students – all purchased from the teachers’ wish lists and given to the kids like Christmas presents. As if that weren’t enough, they also replaced old worn-out textbooks and readers for the classrooms.
All of these books focus on kindergarten readiness, third-grade reading proficiency, and fifth-grade numeracy, (math proficiency).
This club of fewer than 20 members is, like many clubs, small but mighty. And they are mightily committed to their community. They are actively applying for funding and investing money where it’s needed most throughout the year.
If there’s a gap in books or literacy, the Rotary Club of Tulelake is filling it. In the home, in schools, libraries, and through pediatricians’ offices.
These are People of Action!
Photo credits: Rotary Club of Tulelake
Image description: Stacks of children’s books are spread out on a library table with full shelves of books behind it