Shakopee Rotary has started collecting donations from the community for the return of its annual “Shakopee Celebrates Reading” event.

This yearly event provides a free book, drawstring bag and additional supplies to every first grader in Shakopee, from both public and private schools.

Rotary plans to donate items to approximately 600 kids this year.

“There is nothing more heartwarming than to see and hear what the students say to us when we hand them these books,” Rotary Youth Program Chair Sheila McNeill said. “Children can really find a safe space by sitting in a corner and actually immersing themselves in the world of books, so I hope that this will continue to bring that kind of joy to the children.”

While the distribution date for these donations is scheduled for May, McNeill said she and fellow members are already looking to partner with businesses and community organizations for this initiative.

Rotary is responsible each year for donating the hundreds of books. School district partnerships come in handy for this process, as the teachers hand-pick books falling within the students’ reading levels. Rotary then pays for all the books ordered.

In previous years, organizations have gotten involved by providing supplies like pens, pencils, erasers, stickers, notepads, bracelets and bookmarks, some with their companies’ logos on them. McNeill said she hopes to see the same regarding participation from the community this year.

“The children get a wonderful gift between the books and the items that are in the bag. But it’s also a way for the community organizations and companies or businesses to give back and show their support for the community,” McNeill said.

The Shakopee Library also makes a video each year explaining the event to students and featuring interviews with teachers and superintendents about their favorite books and the importance of reading.

McNeill said organizations interested in participating can email Shakopee Rotary at with their donation ideas.

Rotary is collecting donations now through April 30. Rotary members and volunteers plan to organize books and pack the bags on May 2, with bags being distributed throughout the classrooms later that month.

“Reading is a very basic need for all these young people,” McNeill said. “So the sooner we can get them to read and love reading, the better we are as a community and as a world.”