Lions have taken up the challenge of promoting reading worldwide.
It is important work, aimed at helping lift millions of people out of hardship. Learning to read lets people acquire the skills and knowledge they need “to overcome poverty, disease and other social ills,” said Past International President Wayne A. Madden, who served from 2012 to 2013. Literacy, he said, is “a gift Lions can give to children and adults around the world.”
Globally, nearly 1 billion adults cannot read and write. The issue isn’t just a challenge for developing regions, either. In the United States, 21 million people can’t read, and millions more have reading skills so limited that they have difficulty with common tasks such as reading signs or workplace instructions.
The Reading Action Program, launched in 2012, is a 10-year Lions commitment to focus on strengthening global literacy. The program calls for Lions to organize service projects and activities that underscore the importance of reading.
Lions clubs around the world have responded with a broad variety of community-based, person-to-person efforts. Some have helped develop after-school reading programs. Others have volunteered to read to children at local libraries, work as reading tutors or donate books and computers. Whatever the project, Lions say the work is deeply satisfying.
“I get tears in my eyes when I see these children improving their reading on a daily basis. It’s worth my time indeed,” said Jean-Marie Willem, a member of the Bruxelles Saint Hubert Lions Club in Belgium, which created an after-hours school reading program staffed by Lion volunteers.
In Hawaii, the West Kauai Lions Club holds bingo games for kids. The prize? A book. “It’s a good project, because it promotes reading,” said club member Charles Ortiz.
The Nagoya West Lions Club in Japan teamed up with the Makati Golden Lions of metropolitan Manila to build a library for children in the Philippines, then donated new computers and educational software. “Computers are necessary nowadays,” said Shinzo Suzuki, a member of the Nagoya West Club. “So I like (young people) to study or get more knowledge about computer use.”
Many reading efforts tie in with Lions’ longstanding efforts to help people with visual impairments. Leos and Lions from Multiple District 107 in Finland recorded stories, fairy tales and poems, then published the recordings online so children with visual impairments could listen.
The Montclare Elmwood Park Lions Club in suburban Chicago, Illinois, USA, held a reading carnival for more than 100 children, treating them to story time, a puppet theater, face painting, crafts, balloon twisting and snacks.
To increase the literacy program’s impact, Lions have joined forces with other organizations that have the same goal, including Reading is Fundamental, the largest children’s literacy nonprofit organization in the U.S. And at the 2012 International Convention in Busan, South Korea, Lions announced a partnership with the U.S. Agency for International Development’s global literacy campaign, saying USAID and Lions both believe that “literacy is critical to the future of all children.”