During his year as RI president, I often heard Bill Boyd express his passion for improving literacy.

It is a goal very close to Bill's heart, in part because his family owned a bookstore in his native New Zealand and newspaper publishing eventually became his profession. Literacy has been an emphasis of Rotary since 1986, but Boyd gave the issue a renewed focus during his year in office in 2003-04.

A literate world, Bill has said, helps people escape poverty, empowers women, and addresses issues related to water, health, and hunger. Rotarians responded positively to his literacy concerns, and each subsequent RI president has continued to make literacy an important part of his year in office.

I hope every Rotary club promotes and participates in Literacy Month each March. The Rotarian is doing its share by again calling attention to this Rotary observance. We receive hundreds of e-mails, phone calls, and press releases from clubs and districts seeking coverage of their literacy projects. All of these Rotarians are doing important work, helping to change and improve the lives of children, adults, and communities, but we do not have enough pages - or enough issues of the magazine - to cover them all.

A majority of these projects are focused on U.S. and Canadian clubs helping people around the world, but there exists a great demand for Rotary clubs to help promote literacy here in North America. Paul Engleman's in-depth article examines the state of illiteracy in America. Once the most literate country in the world, the United States now ranks anywhere from 12th to 24th, and has shown little progress in improving national literacy levels since the early 1990s.

Why can your club do? Collect new or used books for a local school. Help an immigrant community with literacy. Have some of your club members serve as mentors at a local school. Establish a toy and book library at a school or other public facility in an impoverished neighborhood. Provide child care for parents attending literacy classes. These are just a few ideas.

RI's Literacy Resource Group provides information and support to Rotary clubs and districts to encourage participation in programs and projects that promote universal literacy and educational opportunities for all.

by Vince Aversano, Editor in chief 
The Rotarian - March 2009