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MOUNT PLEASANT, Sanpete County — Rural Utah has a lot of precious resources, but Sanpete County's most valued is obvious.
The entire communities of Moroni, Mt. Pleasant and Fairview turned out to support the reading efforts of their children Tuesday, and many parents thanked the volunteer tutors who are reading with their children.
"I'm so grateful that we have enough community members that care, that love our children as much as we do," said Daniel Green, a member of the school board and proud father.
Students in these schools take part in KSL's Read Today program, where neighbors volunteer a few hours a week to read one on one with students.
Program coordinators marvel that in these tiny schools, dozens of volunteers consistently show up to fulfill their commitment.
"There are wonderful people that live here," said AmeriCorps coordinator Sue Hooley. "They have open hearts and they care for children, and they have really made a great effort."
In this particular community, most of the volunteers come from The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. Stake President Tim Blackham, who serves as a local leader for that area, says the effort has united their community.
"We've had a chance as a community, and as a church, to go to our people and see who would be willing to help volunteer; and we've had a great response," Blackham said.
The most obvious signs of success came from the children themselves. Kids searched the crowds for their tutors and ran to deliver hugs. The students recognize the tutoring has boosted their skills.
"It's helped me understand words that are bigger," said a student named Azlyn. "It will help me read bigger books."
As part of this celebration, Chopper 5 delivered Scholastic Book mascot Clifford the Big Red Dog and me to the party. We offered encouragement and reading resources.
The Reading Rewards include $1,000 that the schools can use to purchase books. In this case, the money purchased a couple of books for every student to take home.
"The backbone of why we want to support this is because they are excited to read," said Jeff Heaton, of Big O Tires.
Big O sponsors the rewards to support kids in their local communities.
"I've never seen anything like this, I've never seen this kind of excitement over books," Heaton said.
Mayors, city leaders, school officials and even members of Sanpete area law enforcement attended the celebrations, saying they all have an interest in children strengthening their towns by first becoming proficient readers.
"If you can't read, it hinders a lot of things in your life," said Moroni City Councilman Orson Cook. For more information on Reader Rewards driven by Big O Tires, visit readtoday.com.