‘Reading is Fundamental’ at Polk Central Elementary

Published 11:42 am Monday, August 1, 2022

In 2004, students at Polk Central Elementary were identified as being in need of additional reading support. The Rotary Club of Tryon, under the leadership of Dave Hosick and Bill and Carolyn Jones, knew how to help. That fall, the trio was licensed to start the first Reading is Fundamental (RIF) program at the elementary school.


For the past 18 years, the RIF program organized three book distributions at the school each year. During the distributions, Rotary members and other community volunteers read books to students, discussed the importance of reading, encouraged students to read more, and then helped each student select a book to take home.

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When you do the math, the number of books distributed to students at Polk Central is phenomenal. The school has about 430 students who receive 3 books each year. This is a total of almost 1,300 books annually. Multiply that by 18 years, and the Rotary Club of Tryon’s RIF program has placed over 23,000 books in the homes of Polk Central Elementary students.


Over the years, Rotarian Carolyn Jones has become the face of RIF at the school, but her favorite “Title” is often heard in the grocery store. Jones says, “I love it when I walk down the aisle of the grocery store and a young child says, Mom, there’s the RIF Lady! When I hear that, I know the program is making a difference.”


The Rotary Club of Tryon recently recognized Carolyn Jones for her 18-year commitment to serving the students of Polk Central Elementary. Jones said, “Literacy is dear to my heart. I love meeting with the kids and getting to know what type of books they like. We can always find something they are interested in, sports, science, comics, our selection is pretty broad.”


Carolyn is passing the reins to the program back to Rotarian Dave Hosick and his wife Joanie. The Hosicks have already met with the Principal at the school and have the dates picked out for the distributions in 2022 and 2023. Jones said, “Dave and Joanie are going to do a great job with RIF. They have a passion for reading and helping students.”


Carolyn noted that the program wouldn’t have been such a success without the many volunteers that helped over the years. School employees, parents, Rotarian and their spouses all pitched in to help the students. 


Jones said, “Charles and Lib McKeller, and Art and Carolyn Brown have been with me since the beginning. Les Stobbe, Beth McCallister, and many other Rotarian have helped regularly.”


The Rotary Club of Tryon is thankful to the many Rotarians who provide Service Above Self with their participation in the RIF program. Jones knows that through the RIF program, “Rotary has made better citizens in Polk County.”


If you are interested in learning more about the Rotary Club of Tryon or any of their programs, please contact the Rotary Club of Tryon President, Carol Browning, at carolbrowning72@gmail.com or 864-580-1000.


Submitted by Dave Scherping