The Rotary Club goes virtual to read to Ridgeview students |

The Rotary Club goes virtual to read to Ridgeview students

The Craig Rotary Club is continuing their tradition of reading to elementary school students, with a twist

Sunny White, a Rotarian, reads a book to Rebecca Kuberry's attentive second grade class.

For the last 23 years the Rotary Club of Craig has gone into the Moffat County Elementary schools and read books to second grade classes.

That all changed this year though as — like many across the country and the world — the Rotary Club of Craig had to adjust to a virtual program.

Rotarians, including board members Daniel Snyder and Randy Looper, have recorded themselves reading books to the kids. The videos can then be played by the teachers at their discretion.

The books chosen by the Rotarians are mostly picture books written by Cathie Gebhart, including Dan the Fish, Wade the Turtle, and Justine the Cat. These are all part of a series of books that Gebhart wrote alongside different authors and — except for one case — different illustrators that came out between 2015 and 2020.

Three of the teachers participating in the program at Ridgeview Elementary are Rebecca Kuberry, Ashley Dalton and Chelsea Suazo.

The club still donate books to second graders to ensure that every kid in Moffat County has at least one book that they can put on their shelf. The program also builds relationships between the members of the Rotary Club and the students and they progress in life.

“I’ve had kids who were in high school, who have said you were my book buddy back in second grade,” Looper said. “So, it’s a neat program.”

Unlike your typical elementary school library book, the Book Buddies program allows students to keep a book for themselves, which can be exciting and fun for students, Suazo said.

“That definitely brought a smile from ear to ear,” she said.

The fact that the Rotarians are virtual and are not going into the schools is opening the pool of people who can participate, which is helping the program expand.

“We are in the process of videoing various Rotarians and then it’s expanded because we’ve had Rotarians who are part of CNCC and part of the hospital and mention it there. So, for example there is a class at CNCC that Sasha Nelson is doing and they are going to read and we’re going to upload it to Google Drive for the teachers to access,” Looper said. “At the hospital there are a lot of people there that are doing it, plus there is a woman over in Steamboat at the hospital and she’s working with her son’s fifth or sixth grade class and they all want to read and get video.”

Despite the fact that the people reading the books are not in person, the kids at Ridgeview are still excited to have someone reading a book to them.

“My kids were so engaged it was complete silence in my room as she was reading, which doesn’t happen very often in my classroom,” Kuberry said.

One of the kids’ favorite books that the Rotary Club has read so far is “Zen Shorts” by John J. Muth.

“They were engaged and just like Ms. Kuberry said, just them being silent as they watch the story. That works for me,” Dalton said.

The lack of face-to-face contact that the Rotarians make with the students when they are in person is the hardest part about making the pre-recorded videos for Looper.

“It’s hard because you don’t develop a relationship with the kids,” Looper said. “You just don’t develop the relationships that you would with the kids, but the goal is to get them reading and by doing the programs in different ways. You can still do that whether we’re doing it in person or whether the teachers are figuring out ways to do it.”

In a post pandemic Moffat County, the Rotary Club might move to a hybrid model, Looper says. He says that it would allow the teachers to show videos of the Rotarians reading outside of the times when they are physically in the classroom.

“It is nice to get other people involved in reading to the kids so if we can continue getting people outside of the club reading and dropping the video over to us,” Looper said. “We can start again next year going back into the classrooms and reading directly to the kids and but also giving the teachers access to numerous videos of other people reading so they can pick and choose and use it whenever they want in addition to the one time a month that the Rotarians are going in.”

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