I spent this past Labor Day weekend at my annual Kekauoha family reunion in Nanakuli. As a community project we made bookmarks for the students at Nanaikapono Elementary School.  When Mrs. Dawn Ige heard about this, she decided to join us accompanied by her husband, David.  Yes, thatʻs right, I mean Governor David Ige. She & the Governor both joined us making the bookmarks and signed them with “Study Hard” and “Read 20 minutes every day.”  Mrs. Ige commented that the most critical need in Hawaiʻi is Early Education for children 0 – 5 years old.  Of the 66,000 preschoolers, only half receive any type of basic educational training, pre-school or after school program.  It all starts with the parents which leads me to our Rotary theme for the month of September, Basic Education and Literacy.
The sad reality is that 1 in 6 adults in Hawaiʻi struggle with basic reading and writing skills.   What are we, as Rotarians, doing to help?   Think about the many education programs we support throughout District 5000. We provide dictionaries to the elementary schools, school supplies and books for the local communities, tutoring and mentoring, scholarships to high school graduates for college and trade schools, and much more.  In addition, we support Rotary Youth Leadership Awards (RYLA) and host annual camps to foster leadership development for our local youth.
As examples, one of the familiar sights on the Waianae Coast is the Hawaii Literacy Blue Bookmobile that serves families on a weekly basis at the Boys & Girls Clubs, housing developments, as well as homeless families and emergency shelters.  With humble beginnings of a donated VIP van, fellow Rotarians partnered with the Hawaii Literacy Project to produce a bookmobile that is still in use today.  Another Literacy program Rotarians are actively engaged in on the island of Maui is Read Aloud America, an after-school-reading program led by Joanne and Larry Laird.  As educators, they enjoy the opportunity to share their “craft.”  Through projects like these, we become part of the solution to a major social dilemma by providing “Basic Education and Literacy.” Every time we put a book in a person’s hand, we are improving their survival skills.   
Consider inviting local educators, representatives from literacy organizations or members of your own club who are educators to provide a “Craft Talk” and to promote basic education and literacy as one of Rotary’s six areas of focus.  We know that basic education and literacy are essential for reducing poverty, improving health, encouraging community and economic development, and promoting peace.   
Let us continue to Navigate Together To Change Lives by improving Basic Education & Literacy…