It has been heartening that in this Covid environment, Clubs have still been able to support Schools and other institutions in their literacy efforts.
Literacy orders have hardly taken a blip and thousands of Usborne dictionaries have been ordered, and increasing numbers of Rotary Rhyming Around the Alphabet books for our younger audiences of early learning.  The District has done an admirable job in supporting literacy efforts and well done to many, many Clubs.
You may have read recently that New Zealand scores poorly on mathematical and literacy scales, on a global basis.  Naturally this has implications for ongoing growth and development, and contribution, for an individual.  A lower socio-economic household tends to have lower levels of literacy and mathematical skills.  This is particularly important when we think about supporting, in particular, our low decile schools.  Sometimes a child just needs their own special book.
Meanwhile, an Innocenti Report Card 2020, produced by the United Nations Children’s Fund Office of Research, released this week, reports on children’s well-being around the globe, with some surprising results.  Unicef says New Zealanders should be shocked by the report, and that we must do better.  Included in its findings, are some interesting comments. 
‘Among the report’s startling findings are that, in all countries, children with less supportive families tend to have poorer emotional wellbeing, and children living in households without educational books have lower levels of academic proficiency’.
In Scholastics' 2012 report (pdf, 350KB), kids say that eBooks are better than print books when they do not want their friends to know what they are reading, and when they are out and about/travelling. Print is better for sharing with friends and reading at bedtime.
There has also been much discussion that there is less demand for books these days, with so much information available on-line.  In fact, our experience of this is the opposite, with many children enjoying having, some-times their only personal book.  As well book sales continue strongly at specialized book stores, and through avenues such as Amazon. Children’s author Joy Cowley, as one example, reports ongoing strong demand for her beautiful books.  A book provided by a Rotarian to a young person may well spark a relationship with books for life.  As well, children receiving treatment at Wellington Children’s Hospital may well receive much joy and encouragement from a special book provided to them by Rotary.
A number of Clubs also support Duffy Books in Homes program, and this brings huge literacy benefits to the families involved.  In some homes, a number of children in the same family have received books, adding hugely to the home library.
And how well do your students learn when they read online? What are the outcomes of on-screen reading compared with reading in print? Current research suggests that reading online results in lower understanding and less critical reflection. What might this mean for our students' learning and for society?  It is important Rotary continue to support the on-going learning and literacy of our children.
Related to this, New Zealand’s oldest teacher blames texting for declining standards of speech.  ‘Students’ ability to speak well a major pointer to chances of success’, 91 year old teacher Gussie Johnson says.  Johnson has been helping students get the gift of the gab for more than half a century, and says standards of speech are declining at a worrying rate.  Johnson is New Zealand’s oldest registered teacher and works part-time at Southland Boys’ High School.
Many kind Rotarians help address this by attending local schools and reading to pupils, helping them not just with literacy overall, but specifically with pronunciation, comprehension and confidence.
Last and not least, I am delighted to announce the recent successful attaining of a District Grant for Rotary Rhyming Around the Alphabet Books.  The application was on behalf of the Rotary Clubs of Port Nicholson; Wellington; Mt Victoria; Wellington North and Porirua.  The books will support children, pre-school and potentially up to Year 8 or 9, at three Wellington area schools; children, families and communities in Samoa and Rarotonga, and young patients at Wellington Children’s Hospital.  Well done to the Clubs involved.  This will contribute some 400 books into those communities.
Thank you all for your on-going contribution and support.
Joy Durrant
District Literacy Convenor