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Backpack program promotes reading for student success

Best Youth Service Project 


It’s said that for the first three years of school, children learn to read, and for the rest of their education, they read to learn. On a local level, the results of a recent Paducah-McCracken County United Way study revealed a strong correlation between literacy and poverty: When a student falls behind in reading skills in the early grades, it can impede their ability to learn and also be a predictor of poverty later in life

This resonated with Scott Adair, vice president of human resources, communications and member services for Jackson Purchase Energy Cooperative, who also holds a doctorate in education. 

Attending a Rotary Club of Paducah meeting one day, Scott heard about the need for a place to store supplies and assemble them as part of a program for children. He immediately thought of Jackson Purchase Energy’s warehouse and conference room. 

“The cooperative is eager to help out in the communities it serves, and sometimes that happens through support for projects,” Scott says.

Jackson Purchase Energy Cooperative’s Scott Adair shows the contents of reading backpacks for second-graders. Photo: Ashley Turner 

Now Scott is the leader of the Rotary Club’s Summer Reading Backpack Program. It provides second-grade students with backpacks each April that give them and their parents tools to promote reading and writing during the summer when literacy can slide.

“The Paducah United Way recently did a study that found a strong link between poverty and literacy,” he says. “The summer between the second and third grade tended to be a milestone. If they learn to read by then, they are less likely to fall into poverty later in life.” 

The summer reading program won an award for Best Youth Service Project in Paducah’s division of Rotary clubs with membership over 100. It touches more than 800 second-graders in 10 schools each year.

“I found out that the Summer Reading Backpack Program is vitally important to the future of children,” Scott says. “If I see an opportunity to help with something that supports our cooperative values—whether it is at work, in the Rotary Club or with a neighbor—and I have the ability to help, I want to support that cause.”

DEBRA GIBSON ISAACS writes on cooperative employees giving back to their communities.

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