The Great Uptown Rotary Club Read

Three students reading.
The Uptown Rotary Club still thinks reading is fun.
Students at Jefferson Community School.

From working on the Jefferson Community School courtyard to participating in the school’s annual carnival, the Minneapolis Uptown Rotary Club has a history of trying to make Jefferson Community School a better place for all its students.

In its most recent project, the Uptown Rotary Club is working on promoting literacy at Jefferson. Rotarian Guy Johnson says that the club wants to make reading fun for kids.

Fellow Rotarian Tom Sopoci came up with the idea after a trip to the beloved Uptown bookstore, Magers & Quinn Booksellers. The bookstore tipped the Rotary Club off about PBS’s Great American Read, and Sopoci morphed the idea into what is now called The Great Jefferson Read.

Rotarians Tom Sopoci and Guy Johnson.

The Great American Read covers some of the most-loved books in America. Sopoci was inspired by the idea and wanted to bring it to Jefferson.

The Rotary Club met with Jefferson and discussed the possibility of developing a program that would help students develop more of an interest in reading. As Johnson describes it, the club worked with Jefferson teachers to find books that would be candidates for the students to read throughout the program.

On October 5, Jefferson held an assembly that announced the winners. Grades six, seven and eight each had respectively voted for their favorite books. The event gave students something to look forward to, as well as a way to celebrate their achievements, says Johnson.

One of the most exciting parts of The Great Jefferson Read is the opportunity it gives students to meet local authors while discussing books. The club, says Johnson, will have the authors come in and engage with students.

The program was a result of a grant the Uptown Rotary Club received from the Rotary district, Johnson explains. The club submitted an application for the program in July and have been in the process of morphing it into what it was since the summer. “[The Rotary Club] is anxious to continue its efforts to promote literacy at Jefferson,” Johnson says.

Because of all its past work with the school, the Uptown Rotary Club knew they wanted to do a little more for the Jefferson students. Johnson says the club is fairly active in the school, saying the students sometimes have circumstances outside of their control that put them at a disadvantage.

Despite Jefferson being a local school to the Uptown Rotary Club, there are other causes that call its members to the school. They want to help the students prepare for a brighter future where they don’t have to work as hard against a learning curve they may have encountered down the road otherwise.