On a cold, November morning, I pulled a T-shirt on over my work clothes and boarded a bus bound for Kelly Miller Elementary School in Winnsboro, South Carolina. As the CIC’s new dean, I wanted a first-hand look at what our literacy initiative, Cocky’s Reading Express, was all about.
When we got there, hundreds of the school’s youngest children filed into the cafeteria and settled into rows on the floor. Our group was there to read, but we were also there to make the children laugh. The CIC’s communications manager delivered an Oscar-worthy robot impression for “The Book with No Pictures.” An MLIS student sang about shoes as she read “Pete the Cat.” And Cocky surprised the audience during my reading of “Bark, George,” acting out each page of the story with exaggerated flair.
At the end, each child got a book of their own to take home. Even the Clemson fans were excited to high-five Cocky on their way back to class.
Literacy challenges in SC
The statistics aren’t so exciting. Only a third of South Carolina’s fourth graders are proficient in reading. Standardized test scores place them 47th in the nation. We know literacy is a major challenge in our state, and I can’t tell you that CRE will fix that overnight.
But I can tell you that it’s a powerful place to begin. Literacy data suggests third grade is a point when reading ability can predict someone’s likelihood of graduating high school. This means the more we do to promote reading in our pre-K through second graders, the higher their educational attainment. And the smarter our state’s workforce is, the more attractive we are as a home for big business.
In short, improving childhood literacy strengthens our economy. That’s why we’re expanding our efforts. But we need your help to do it.
How you can help?
On April 10, the University of South Carolina will host Give 4 Garnet, our annual day of giving. Your donations to our campaign, Project Literacy, will help CRE pay for things like travel expenses, supplies and rewrapping its bus. You’ll also be supporting the launch of our news literacy effort. There will be more to come on this, but our J-school faculty hope to create a children's book that CRE can give to the librarians it visits.
Why news literacy? Because in the age of social media, children are increasingly exposed to news articles, photos and videos. Being news literate means knowing which questions to ask: Which company owns this news website? Is it possible this image has been Photoshopped? Could the person in this video have been added digitally?
The modern media landscape has the potential to expose corruption, empower communities and be a force for change, but it can also drive chaos and even threaten our democracy. Just as with education, a society adept at navigating this landscape is better conditioned for economic prosperity.
So, we hope you’ll join our mission on Give 4 Garnet. Learn more about Project Literacy and make your gift here. And remember, your contribution makes a difference no matter the amount.