Reading Oasis with our Rocky Mountain High School Key Club

Early in 2017, our Rocky Mountain High School Key Club expressed interest in funding a Kiwanis Reading Oasis through Scholastic for a local elementary school. The RMHS Key Club is the first Key Club to sponsor this for a school, and the Eyeopeners Kiwanis Club immediately wanted to help them in any way needed to turn this into an actuality.

What better person to tell the story of this exciting project than 2016-17 Rocky Mountain High School Key Club President Olivia Becker! Here is the story of the reading room in her own words.

The Kiwanis Reading Oasis is a partnership with Scholastic that provides children a safe environment to enjoy reading new books provided by Scholastic. It was made to be a service project for Kiwanis clubs with fundraising and construction while taking advantage of Scholastic’s book resources. If they choose to do so, volunteers can continue to serve the school by reading with kids in the room on a regular basis. Allowing for an inclusion of different products and prices, Scholastic created several different sizes of Reading Oasis packages.

The one the Rocky Mountain High School Key Club chose, the Large Oasis Package, provides three bookshelves, a bookshelf bench, a reading-themed rug, four bean bags, a CD player with audio books, and 1,200 books appropriate for all elementary grades.

How did the Fort Collins project come about?
Each year, Rocky Mountain High School’s Key Club does a spring service project chosen by the president. I choose this project because I want to be an elementary school teacher and am passionate about kids not only learning to read, but learning to love reading. When I attended the 2015 Key Club International Convention in Indianapolis I gained a ton of inspiration for service projects during the service fair. I spent about twenty minutes talking to a representative at the Scholastic booth about the Reading Oasis project.

In contrast to our Key Club’s usual global focus for the spring service project, I liked that this project could make a local impact. I wanted our volunteers to see the results of their hard work and the money they donated.
Another benefit of the Reading Oasis is that Key Clubbers and our local Kiwanis club can continue giving in years to come by reading with kids in the room. A year after the convention, when I had been elected Club President and it was
time for me to choose a service project, I knew the Reading Oasis was the one I wanted to bring to fruition.

What did you do to get the project started?
The first step of the project was deciding which elementary school to build the Reading Oasis in, with consideration of four schools in Poudre School District. Putnam Elementary ended up being my first choice because it was close enough to allow Key Clubbers to conveniently visit for planning, building, and returning next year to read with kids in the room. I had also volunteered at Putnam before and knew based on their demographics that they could use the help of an extra reading resource. I reached out to Putnam’s office manager, who quickly got on board with the project after a meeting in which I shared my plan and showed her successful Reading Oasis pictures obtained from the Scholastic website. She helped pick a room to clear out for the project and was the main contact for the months to come. Rocky Mountain High School is now
the first Key Club to have successfully built a Reading Oasis (usually the project is reserved for adult Kiwanis Clubs).

How was the Reading Oasis funded?
A Large Reading Oasis costs $5,500, no small feat for a high school club. As early as October (eight months before the room was assembled), the RMHS Key Club was seeking donations. We applied to Key Club International’s Youth Opportunities Fund, which generously donated $2,000 to the cause. Our local Kiwanis club, the Fort Collins Eyeopeners, contributed another $1,000. RMHS Key Club was fortunate enough to have some extra money in our budget from last
year, plus some diligent members who raised an unusually high amount this year through our annual chocolate selling fundraiser. These factors allowed our club to set aside $1,000 to go toward the project. The other $1,500 were raised within two weeks through fundraisers in our school and community.

After clearing the project with RMHS administrators, we set up a competition between homerooms to collect the most money. A girl on the video announcements team went to Putnam and filmed an ad to raise awareness in our high school. We planned homeroom activities to get everyone involved, such as a pajama day and Drop Everything And Read time. Some homerooms went above and beyond; the Teacher Cadet class, full of future teachers, organized a silent auction for babysitting. Each student in the class wrote a short description about herself and donated three hours of her time, and RMHS teachers with young kids bid on which students they wanted to babysit their kids. Instead of paying the babysitters, the teachers’ money (about $350 total) went toward the Reading Oasis. Key Clubbers also called local restaurants and
organized fundraiser nights for the community. Lamar’s donuts even donated 150 donuts that Key Clubbers sold in RMHS before school!

What went into building the Reading Oasis?
After raising the money needed, RMHS Key Club sent a check to Scholastic. All the materials shipped to Putnam Elementary School in late May. We picked June 1, 2017 as our construction day and offered that volunteers who wanted to help could show up at 9 a.m. Five Key Clubbers and three Kiwanians from the Eyeopeners Kiwanis Club came. First, we moved all the boxes from their temporary storage space in the media center to the classroom we would transform. Then we opened all the boxes to gauge what was inside. The bookshelves were shipped in the form of wooden boards,

First, we moved all the boxes from their temporary storage space in the media center to the classroom we would transform. Then we opened all the boxes to gauge what was inside. The bookshelves were shipped in the form of wooden boards, Allen wrenches, screws, and directions. We split into groups and assembled the furniture, then arranged it how we wanted in the room. Some volunteers shelved the books while others continued building the furniture.

In April, I had chatted about the Reading Oasis Project with a teacher who used to teach at Putnam. She told me that when she taught there, she had an extra bathtub at her house that she brought to school and called “The Reading Bathtub.” Filled with stuffed animals, it was a fun place for kids to read. The teacher informed me that the bathtub was still at Putnam and that I was welcome to use it for the project. After contacting the Putnam teacher who was keeping it in his classroom, we were able to move the bathtub into the Reading Oasis room as a final touch.

Putting together the Reading Oasis took about four hours, including everything from initially moving boxes to vacuuming Styrofoam packaging pieces off the floor. About three hours in, a Key Clubber’s mom brought celebratory pizzas and soda. We all had a great time building the room and it was amazing to see the finished product of months of planning.