Northfield Rotary is well known for its support of Polio Plus, an international campaign to eradicate polio. Closer to home, people associate it with youth exchange and bike trails.
But thanks to volunteers like Chris Weber, literacy is another area where Rotary is making a difference.
Chris has been chairing Rotary’s Literacy Committee for five years. During his tenure, Rotary has partnered with the local Early Childhood Initiative Coalition (ECIC) and other community organizations to make gently used books more accessible to families across the community. It has also contributed monetarily to the recent Northfield Public Library expansion and the new bookmobile, coming soon to neighborhoods near you. In 2016, Northfield Rotary received a district literacy award for its work here at home as well as its support of international literacy work, such as Books for Africa.
Chris comes by his literacy passion both from personal experience and from his Rotary connections. He and his wife, Deanne, read to their kids from infancy on, and saw the difference it made in their children’s social and academic development. Then, at a Rotary International convention he was seated next to the point person for Rotary’s literacy efforts. After listening to him for an hour, Chris was all in.
Rotary joined with ECIC, Healthy Community Initiative and Early Childhood Family Education to create a system for collecting gently used books and then distributing them at key community locations. It has also contributed to Northfield Promise’s reading team. Chris invites anyone with used children’s books to drop them off inside the north door to Northfield Community Resource Center.
Michelle Lasswell, president of Northfield Rotary Club, said literacy is one of Rotary International’s six areas of focus.
“Basic education and literacy are essential for reducing poverty, improving health, encouraging community and economic development, and promoting peace,” she said. “This is the main reason why Rotary International is dedicated to promoting literacy.”
Chris’s leadership has been a difference-maker, she said.
“Chris took the initiative to act on his passion, and since it began he has helped make this a sustainable program that puts books into the hands of children who might not otherwise have access to these books,” she said. “He has expanded it to include Spanish speaking books. His leadership and commitment have truly helped this program grow and has made a difference for children here in Northfield.”
Chris points out that Rotary’s literacy efforts are possible because of the active support from his committee and other Rotary volunteers.
“We couldn’t do any of this without the help of other Rotarians, especially those on our committee,” he said.
Chris and the Rotary Literacy Committee would like to make adult literacy the next area of focus. Rice County’s adult literacy rate is lower than the state average, he said. Closing that gap would enable more adults to fully participate in community life and to better navigate the business of daily living.
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Caption: Chris Weber, chair of Northfield Rotary’s Literacy Committee.