Rep. Gilda Cobb-Hunter, Rep. Lanny Littlejohn, Rachel Hodges, Tommy Preston and Dr. Dan Barron were honored by the University of South Carolina and the state’s library community Thursday, Sept. 13, 2007, with Literacy Leaders Awards for their work to improve literacy in South Carolina.
The inaugural ceremony for the annual awards was held at the South Carolina State Library. Charles Bierbauer, dean of the College of Mass Communications and Information Studies, presented the awards.
“Each of our honorees has recognized that literacy is the ‘A’ in the ABCs of building a child’s confidence, capability and prospects for success,” Bierbauer said. “We call these leaders ‘stars’ in our literacy initiative, but we’d like to put everyone in the state into the constellation of stars that it will take to ensure bright futures for our children and their families.”
The awards were created as part of the School of Library and Information Science’s Children, Libraries and Literacy Initiative, a $6 million campaign launched in 2005 to eliminate illiteracy across South Carolina.
Cobb-Hunter and Littlejohn have championed the creation and funding of the Augusta Baker Chair in Childhood Literacy, a key component of the Children, Libraries and Literacy Initiative. Their efforts resulted in a $1.5 million appropriation that helped create the endowment for the chair. Cobb-Hunter, a social worker and community activist, has represented her Orangeburg district since 1992. Littlejohn, who represents the Spartanburg area, is an educator, having served as an elementary school principal, teacher and coach.
Hodges, a Hartsville native, created her well-known and successful Reading with Rachel program in 1999 when she was first lady of South Carolina. As part of the program, she visited more than 250 classrooms in the state and distributed more than 500,000 books. Reading with Rachel was also a featured program on S.C. Educational Radio. Hodges has been honored by the American Association of School Librarians and the Girl Scouts of America for her literacy advocacy.
Preston, a Clemson native, is a 2007 graduate of the university. Inspired by the Children, Libraries and Literacy Initiative, Preston created Cocky’s Reading Express when he was student president. The express enlisted student leaders to visit elementary schools and libraries throughout the state to read and provide books to young children. Cocky’s Reading Express continues to roll-along, planning stops this fall along the I-95 corridor.
Barron, who retired as director of the School of Library and Information Science in 2006, was the driving force behind the Children, Libraries and Literacy Initiative. He helped craft the initiative’s three-prong mission of research, resources and outreach. Key components include the Augusta Baker Chair in Childhood Literacy, the first chair at the university named for an African-American woman; the Center for Children’s Books and Literature and its many resources available to the education community and public; and outreach efforts that include a statewide network of literacy groups called Literacy Stars and Cocky’s Reading Express.