Local children’s book author Carol “Boots” Hensel visited PCB Academy in Panama City, Fla., during a special visit on Wednesday, February 21. Boots read her story “Johari’s Joy” to children while dressed in pig pajamas, and there were guest appearances from her book’s stars – Johari and Joy.
Boots is a friend of Rotarian Bob Britson, a local engineer and a volunteer with the Rotary Read Aloud program. Rotary Read Aloud is an initiative between the Early Learning Coalition of Northwest Florida and the Rotary Club of Panama City. The program started in 2007, and has grown from a partnership with 4 School Readiness contracted providers to 22.
Each month, Rotarians visit participating Rotary Read Aloud sites in Bay County to read to children. Books and puppets are left with teachers as a gift to the program. Additionally, books are donated through the generous funding of the Rotary Club of Panama City to encourage reading and family engagement in the home. Parents complete pre- and post-Home Literacy Environment Checklists to monitor changes in behavior from the beginning to the end of the program. Parents and teachers also complete comment cards on books provided by the Early Learning Coalition. Books are selected based on the “Mind in the Making” series of activity sheets with tips to promote life skills.
During the 2016/2017 school year, Rotarians spent over 56 hours preparing for and/or reading in School Readiness contracted programs. Since its inception, thousands of books have been sent home for families to read with children. Based on feedback data from parents and teachers, parents have become more engaged and have increased the time spent reading to their children. Parents are visiting the library more, and they are adding books to their home library. Screen time for children has decreased for children involved with Rotary Read Aloud.
Rotary Read Aloud is credited to the late Julian Bennett (former Panama City Rotarian) and his long-time friend, former ELC of NW Florida Executive Director Lynne Eldridge. They wanted a program that helped increase literacy in early learners, engaged families more, and they wanted the data to support a change in behavior. Since 2007, the lives of thousands of children and families have been positively affected by Rotary Read Aloud.
The Early Learning Coalition of Northwest Florida is proud to partner with the Rotary Club of Panama City to “cause an revolution of positive impact to so many in our community,” as quoted by Julian’s son, Panama City Rotarian and Rotary Read Aloud Reader Derrick Bennett. To learn more about Rotary Read Aloud, visit www.elcnwf.org/about-us/get-involved/.
More about the Author: Carol “Boots” Hensel has written two books, “Johari’s Joy” and “The Zoopendous Surprise.” She is a resident of Panama City, Fla., where she lives with her husband. To learn more about Boots or to schedule an appearance, visit http://bootshensel.com/.
News Coverage on WMBB-TV: “Rotary Promotes Reading”