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Hooked on Books

Rotary and Probus Reading and Support Program

The partnership, ‘Rotary Reading and Support Program’ involves up to 15 individuals, members of the local Rotary and Probus Clubs, visiting in groups of two or three to hear ‘targeted’ children read and be read to each day of the week. There is also an audio books program funded by Rotary to support students from a refugee background. The partnership has been borne out of an ongoing relationship with the local Noble Park Rotary Club. It had been emphasised with our many meetings and discussions with club members that while their financial support was always greatly appreciated, practical hands on support was what would make the most difference.

The belief is that there is a mutually beneficial potential for retired people to become directly involved in the students’ learning.

The school’s strategic plan is quite specific -… All resources in the community are utilised, both human and physical with further development of partnerships such as Enhanced Learning and Rotary Reading...- NPPS 2012-15 Strategic Plan.

It is apparent from our data, that Reading is an area for further improvement and given our school’s low SES context, that students would benefit from having ‘mentors’ from the broader community to support the building of social capital. The partner participants are involved in planning the program for the year and receive an induction program when they commence. There is also significant evidence that literacy success and students reading to and being read to improves their reading outcomes.

‘Heath found children who are read to interactively become better readers than children who are not read to interactively or not read to at all.’

Heath found (1) in the community where the children tended to do well in reading throughout school, the parents provided their children with children's books and read story books to them interactively ..

Heath, S.B. (1982). What no bedtime story means: narrative skills at home and school. Language in Society, II, 49-76. 
Heath, S.B. (1983). Ways with Words. New York: Cambridge University Press.

The principal and two designated staff members are directly involved in maintaining the relationship with the Rotary Club. The leadership team provides a teacher to coordinate the volunteers and an education support staff member to maintain the audio take home program. The Rotary coordinator meets with the teacher coordinator each week to ensure the smooth running of the program and recruitment strategies. Time tabling support is provided in terms of this being a permanent fixture on the staff bulletin to ensure the integrity of the program.

As mentioned, the program runs on a daily basis in the school. It has also resulted in the Rotary and Probus members feeling a strong connection to the school, attending assemblies and special days at the school beyond the actual program. The program has also been reported on at Rotary and Probus meetings by volunteers involved in the program and school representatives reporting on the significance and efficacy of the program. Recently we have received international Rotary delegates to view the program. They were very impressed and thought it was something they could take back to their chapter in Indiana.

Many of our students do not have the opportunity to read to someone at home. It is well known that increased frequency of reading is supportive of improved outcomes. Students in this program are handpicked for their need to have more opportunities to have their reading monitored by someone who can support improvement.

Teachers and volunteers have commented very positively on the reading of students involved in the program and have attributed improvements in results to the program.

The mentor role is emphasised to the participants, in the light of many of our students not having adult role models due to family dislocation based on the migrant/refugee experience, or other low SES factors. The incidental conversation is highly valued by all stake holders.

The benefits for the volunteers are manyfold, in particular in developing their own cultural awareness and receiving the satisfaction of supporting their local community.

It is in keeping with our model of developing a true community organisation, utilising three quadrants (see ‘Creating Powerful Learning Relationships- Otero, Csoti and Rothstadt, Hawker Brownlow, 2011 P.9), community links, parent connectedness and personalisation of learning to demonstrate the school’s orientation and commitment.