ELDRIDGE, Iowa — As part of National Bullying Prevention Month, Quad Cities Rotary Clubs kicked off a new anti-bullying program on Wednesday, Oct. 12.
The project involves traveling to kindergarten classrooms in the Iowa Quad Cities to present and distribute children's books and other materials.
The book, "Who Am I?" by Suzanne Mulcahy, is about a panda bear named Yin taking kids on a journey to discover who they are, and the unique gifts in their hearts they can share with others.
"I don't think that there's a too early of a stage to build children up - to empower them, to help them and give them the tools to have positive healthy self-esteem - because I think it leads to healthier choices later on," North Scott Rotary Club President Josie Cochuyt said.
The clubs first went to Edward White Elementary School in Eldridge, where Josie read the book to several classes at the library.
"There was definitely a spike in mental health concerns over the last three years or so," Principal Carrie Lane said. "And the lack of social interactions prevented students and even adults from interacting with each other for so long. We've forgotten how to interact with each other. And the program is a great reminder just how to treat other people."
As part of the project, teachers also get stuffed animals of the main character and workbooks to give children social and emotional support.
"Everybody goes through life with things inside them that other people don't see or realize on the outside that's tough or difficult," Lane said. "Everybody just kind of has their own struggles. So if we can be nice to each other, it makes life a little bit easier."
97 classrooms in Davenport, Bettendorf, North Scott and Pleasant Valley school districts will benefit from the program.
The clubs hope to supply each school by the end of October.
The Rotary Clubs of Bettendorf, Davenport, Iowa Quad Cities and North Scott are working together on the project. Together they have more than 300 members.
Those clubs represent the service organization Rotary International which has over 1.4 million members that work on humanitarian and community efforts.