July 8, 2023

By Monica Humbard

In 2021, Rotary of Lee’s Summit began opening Little Free Libraries around Lee’s Summit to encourage reading. The club’s goal was to improve literacy in the community. Now the club has taken its focus one step further with Literacy Link, a free-standing station featuring a QR code that links young families to reading resources for children.

The Literacy Link QR code connects to such resources as books read out loud, instruction on how to get a library card, tips for improving children’s reading skills, and information about story time at the Mid-Continent Public Library.

In March 2022, the New York Times reported that some areas of the country were already finding that reading skills in their schools were at a 20-year low. Other school districts had discovered that since the pandemic twice as many students in their high-poverty schools were being identified as at high risk for reading problems.

According to the March New York Times article, “Children in every demographic group have been affected, but Black and Hispanic children, as well as those from low-income families, those with disabilities and those who are not fluent in English, have fallen the furthest behind.”

Recognizing the damaging effects of COVID on childhood literacy, Rotary of Lee’s Summit created Literacy Link to assist families with getting their young readers back on track. The Lee’s Summit Rotarians plan to place the Literacy Link at different Lee’s Summit events as well as at the Mid-Continent Library and at Lee’s Summit elementary school book fairs. Sometimes the station will be staffed by Rotarians distributing free books, while other times it will stand alone. When not staffed, families can still take away magnets, stickers, bookmarks, and pencils featuring the site link, which are available in containers that hang on the station.

In July, Literacy Link will return to KD’s Books for the Fourth Friday Art Walk in Downtown Lee’s Summit. It already appeared at the store once during Downtown Days in June. On August 19, Literacy Link will be staffed by Rotarians at the Back To School Bash at Lee’s Summit North High School, where sponsoring area churches and organizations plan to distribute 3,000 backpacks of school supplies to struggling families in the community. At this event Rotarians will pass out free books and share information about Literacy Link with these families.

If you are interested in hosting Literacy Link for an event or at your business location, please contact Monica Humbard, the Rotary’s BelRAG committee chair, at director@coldwater.me. BelRAG stands for Basic Education & Literacy Rotarian Action Group.