Event Description - Summit Summary

The Hagerstown Rotary Club believes every young person in Washington County needs to be able to read and write in order to be a successful citizen in the 21st century.

In September 2011, the Rotary Club’s Board of Directors decided to do something about it, establishing a Literacy Task Force. It included more than a dozen community members who had an interest in childhood literacy.

“We felt it was time for the community to recognize the problems of childhood illiteracy,” said David C. Hanlin, Hagerstown Rotary president. “Teaching a child to read is primarily, but not exclusively, the responsibility of parents.”

The Literacy Task Force spent eight months investigating the issue in Washington County. During that process, the Task Force learned that many young students entered school unprepared to learn because they’d didn’t have strong reading skills.

Another concern was summer learning loss. Reading skills stagnated or eroded during summer vacations when reading is not a required activity for young people.

The Task Force found that many organizations in the community were involved with either literacy, reading or writing programs for young people. But in many instances, there was little collaboration among the various groups. It was felt all the organizations would benefit if they could be brought together to network and share information and best practices.

With those issues and others as a back drop, the Task Force organized the first Childhood Literacy Summit, held on May 3, 2012 at Hagerstown Community College.

About 115 people, including educators, business people, youth-advocacy group representatives and parents, attended the summit.
The Summit featured presentations by local educators, small group discussions in which attendees could offer up their ideas on how to tackle the issues, and a commitment by Summit organizers to follow up with a plan to take some of the best ideas and put them into practice.
During his welcoming remarks, HCC President Guy Altieri stressed the importance of literacy in today’s hyper-competitive business world.
His message was underscored during a roundtable featuring Mary Baykan, Washington County Free Library director, and Washington County, Md., Superintendent of Schools Clayton Wilcox.

Wilcox said literacy was so important in the 21st century that he called it “the new civil right.”

Steve Wernick, Washington County supervisor of Elementary Reading, Social Studies and Early Learning, discussed local literacy trends and what could be done to improve reading and writing skills.

At day’s end, participants recommended a number of ideas that would help address some of the issues contributing to reading challenges among young people in Washington County.

“We have identified some individuals and organizations with which we will be meeting for follow up,” Hanlin said. “The Task Force has begun to discuss possible next steps. We’d like to break down some barriers and foster collaboration.”

The Rotary Literacy Summit was co-sponsored by Washington County Public Schools and the Washington County Free Library. Contributors included DH WEB Inc., Hagerstown Community College, Rotary Club of Hagerstown Charitable Foundation, University of Maryland Extension-Hagerstown and Women’s Giving Circile.

Support was also provided by the five Rotary Clubs in Washington County: Hagerstown, Hagerstown-Sunrise, Hancock, Long Meadows and Williamsport.