In the months Lakewood Ranch’s Diane Adams has volunteered to be a reader at G.D. Rogers Garden-Bullock Elementary School, she has seen the impact the Rotary Club of Lakewood Ranch’s Books for Kids program has had on students in the School District of Manatee County.
She visits classes once per month to read aloud to students, discuss the books as well as distribute books that are appropriate for each student’s reading level.
“It’s been wonderful and very satisfying,” said Adams, who is in her first year as a volunteer with the program. “I think I get more out of it than I give to them. The children are so appreciative and so excited when you come.”
Adams and dozens of other Books for Kids volunteers celebrated the program’s success during the fifth annual Books for Kids Luncheon on Feb. 20 at the Lakewood Ranch Golf and Country Club.
The program has 125 volunteers reading to 125 first, second and third grade classes in Manatee and Sarasota counties. By the end of the school year, the program will have distributed more than 67,000 books to students since its inception in 2014. The program donates an average of 2,500 books per month.
When the program started, Ted Lindenberg, the program director, said it had five volunteers and distributed 100 books.
“When I look at [the growth of the program], I have to pinch myself because it’s hard to believe that this is what we’re doing,” Lindenberg said.
Students from James Tillman Elementary School sang two songs for luncheon guests, and a few students shared their memories of when a volunteer would come to their class.
Some students said they created personal libraries at home with the books they were given. Students would read to their siblings or family members.
Lakewood Ranch’s Karen Allen, who has been volunteering for six years, said she enjoys the program.
“The kids love getting the books,” Allen said. “They rush back to their desk to put their name in it.”