Olathe Mayor Michael Copeland met with Olathe Schools Superintendent Pat All to discuss ways in which he could work with Olathe Schools to improve childhood literacy. It was determined that he could make the biggest impact on literacy by working with first graders in Olathe's ten Title 1 schools, and in September, 2005, the "I Read With Mayor Mike" program was launched.
In September, 2005, Mayor Copeland began visiting Title 1 elementary schools in Olathe, reading to first grade students and giving a free paperback book and an "I Read With Mayor Mike" sticker to each child. For the 2006-2007 school year, Title 1 first graders are also receiving free "I Read With Mayor Mike" book bags, sponsored by businesses and civic organizations in the community.
During each school visit, a random drawing is conducted to select two students to ride with Mayor Copeland in the OLATHE READS float in the annual Johnson County Old Settlers Days parade. The 2006 parade float was decorated with a literacy theme by students at Indian Trail Junior High School, giving even more Olathe students an opportunity to participate in OLATHE READS and celebrate literacy in the community.
As a supplement to the School District's regular reading curriculum, "I Read With Mayor Mike" emphasizes that reading is an important part of good citizenship and brings life-long rewards. The program is touching the lives of approximately 600 Olathe first graders enrolled in Title 1 schools.
As the "I Read With Mayor Mike" partnership between the City of Olathe and Olathe Schools progressed, the Olathe Public Library joined with the City and Olathe Schools to form OLATHE READS, a community-wide consortium whose purpose is to promote the value and importance of reading. The City of Olathe seeks to be known as a "City of Readers," which is reflected in the Olathe Reads logo.
The OLATHE READS goal is to bring literacy initiatives throughout Olathe under one umbrella, pooling the resources, expertise, and influence of the City of Olathe, the Olathe School District, and the Public Library to more effectively reach the community and accomplish the community's literacy goals. Although the current emphasis is on children, OLATHE READS will eventually embrace new and existing literacy programs for older students and adults as well. While OLATHE READS has no paid staff members, an OLATHE READS Steering Committee, comprised of representatives from the Public Library, City of Olathe, and Olathe Schools is leading the effort.
Funding for OLATHE READS has been provided through generous grants from the Comcast Foundation and Wal-Mart, Olathe District Schools, and other community donors – a clear reflection of the broad-based community support that exists for the initiative.
The scope and outreach of OLATHE READS will continue to evolve as additional literacy goals are established. There are three OLATHE READS initiatives currently underway: "I Read With Mayor Mike" – Mayor Michael Copeland's reading initiative in Olathe's Title 1 elementary schools; expansion and promotion of the Olathe Public Library's Summer Reading Club; and support for the Library's Daycare Outreach Program. The OLATHE READS Steering Committee has identified these three projects as having significant potential for promoting the importance of reading in the community.