Rotary Club raises over $800K for ‘Reading by 9’ program

The Rotary Club of Long Beach initiative “Reading by 9” has raised $800,000 and has provided about 300,000 books to kids since its 1999 inception.

With the goal of enhancing literacy, during the program’s first year, donors gave $8,000 and over 6,000 books to five Long Beach schools.

“Quite frankly, I thought it was going to be a one-year program,” said Frank Newell, who was president of the Rotary at the time and is the current Reading by 9 chair. “When I was done being president, the club decided to continue, asked me to continue fundraising, and here I am 23 years later.”

The program’s first few years consisted of largely supporting elementary school libraries, which were not funded at the time, said Newell.

Over the years, the program has expanded to supporting Child Development Centers, providing preschool to 2,000 to 2,500 kids each year and establishing a teachers literacy grant.

Each year, Rotary Club also works to get books directly into children’s hands, this year introducing a pilot program, “One Book, One School,” involving six K-5 schools in the district.

“As time marches on, our focus is more on kids who are in underserved areas,” said Newell.

Newell’s goal for the next three years is to reach one million dollars in total funds donated, and the organization is approaching that goal.

The club has a literacy committee that functions throughout the year, but the fundraising occurs in one meeting per year, this year’s meeting on Wednesday.

Newell received pledges before the yearly meeting, and the club will receive $25,000 in matching funds. His goal for this year is to raise an additional $60,000.

To join and pledge a donation contact [email protected].

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