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Seven Maui Rotary clubs bring Dr. Seuss’ birthday to over 1,000 first-graders

By Staff | Mar 23, 2017

Liz May (left) and Joanne Laird of the Rotary Club of Lahaina Sunset get the 42 students at Kaunakakai School on Molokai excited about Dr. Seuss stories during Hawaii Rotary’s week-long “5 Million Words Challenge.”

LAHAINA – In celebration of Dr. Seuss’ birthday, Maui Rotarians joined forces to read the beloved author’s books to first grade students across the island as part of Hawaii Rotary’s week-long “5 Million Words Challenge.”

Taking place from Feb. 27 to March 3, 2017, the literacy program was a partnership between Hawaii Rotary District 5000, the Department of Education, State of Hawaii and First Lady Dawn Ige.

During the week, the seven Rotary clubs of Kahului, Kihei-Wailea, Lahaina, Lahaina Sunrise, Lahaina Sunset, Valley Isle Sunset and Wailuku shared the birthday celebration with 1,092 students on Maui and Molokai.

Participating schools were Haiku, Lihikai, Pu’u Kukui, Kihei Elementary, King Kamehameha III, Princess Nahi’ena’ena, Maui Prep, Sacred Hearts and the four public elementary schools on Molokai. Leah Belmonte represented First Lady Ige at Kihei Elementary.

Rotary members read aloud from two Dr. Seuss books in each first-grade classroom. The books were then presented to the teachers for their classroom libraries. At some schools, students made Dr. Seuss hats and received a booklet of Dr. Seuss activities to take home.

Leah Belmonte (left), representative for Hawaii First Lady Dawn Ige, and Patty Hemmen of the Rotary Club of Kihei-Wailea share information about Rotary prior to reading aloud from Dr. Seuss books at Kihei Elementary.

Lahaina Sunset Rotarian Jim Fahnestock found the volunteer experience worthwhile. “This program, like so many Rotary programs, provides rich rewards to the volunteers. I began to read a Dr. Seuss book to a wonderful class at Pomaikai Elementary School in Kahului. But very soon, with the help of their caring teacher, the students took turns reading the book to me, and I was amazed at their courtesy, energy and youthful enthusiasm,” he said. “I left my brief encounter feeling really good about this reading program and feeling really good about public education on Maui.”

Liz May, Rotary District 5000 literacy chair, thanked Maui’s Rotarians.

“Mahalo to all the Rotarians who read to children across the island for the ‘5 Million Words Challenge,’ ” she said. “They are a testament to the island’s caring spirit and commitment to the educational development of the next generation.”

Nine of the 50 clubs that make up Rotary District 5000 are located on Maui and Lanai. Rotary is a leadership organization made up of local business, professional and civic leaders.

Clubs hold regular meetings where members can form friendships and participate in activities that serve their communities. They also sponsor high school Interact clubs that work in conjunction with the parent Rotary club to provide community service projects for their schools and communities.

Alexis Dascoulias of the Rotary Club of Kahului is surrounded by first grade students at Lihikai School after reading aloud Dr. Seuss books.

For more information about Rotary clubs on Maui, contact Larry Laird, assistant district governor, at lmaui@jps.net.