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2015 literacy advocates honored

Posted Sept. 10, 2015
By Haley Hinze, second year M.M.C. student
Photo (l to r): Vicky Culbertson, Tracey Ely, Floyd Creech, Debbie Hyler, Joe Keeton and Julie Bascom

Joe Keeton, StartSMART and Tutor Eau Claire were honored by the School of Library and Information Science, Sept. 8, 2015, with Literacy Leaders Awards. The awards go to individuals and groups that have had a statewide impact on literacy in South Carolina.

The ninth annual ceremony was held at the South Carolina Center for Children's Books and Literacy. Emcee for the event was WLTX News 19 reporter and part-time anchor Savannah Levins.

The 2015 awards ceremony also included the second Peggy Parish Prize, which honors those who have made a personal impact that increases child literacy in South Carolina. The memorial award was given to two individuals who demonstrate the imagination, creativity and energy to help the children of South Carolina become life-long readers. This year’s recipients of the award were Julie Bascom and Vicky Culbertson.

Award Recipients

Joe Keeton, formerly of Follett Library Resources, is a school library and literacy advocate from Chapin, South Carolina. Ida Thompson, who presented the award, said that Keeton is a “person who really cared, and who understood at the very core of what he represented … and how important it was to make sure young people were engaged with quality reading material and great literacy experiences.”

Keeton has made many contributions to state libraries and literacy programs, ensuring that they remain working efficiently. “I’m the behind-the-scenes guy,” he said. “When I got plucked out of a lumber yard to sell books, I had no idea where this journey would take me.” Thompson said that Keeton also helped bring Project Connect to South Carolina — “a really awesome opportunity to put our state on the map in terms of our advocacy for our children and our literature.”

StartSMART is a unique partnership between Florence School District 1, The School Foundation and the StartSMART Advisory Council. The program, which focuses on children from birth to four years of age in Florence County, helps families prepare their kids for school. Parents are also provided with home visits and caregivers are given monthly training, explained presenter Leesa Benggio-Aiken. “In 2015, 500 children in Florence County went to preschool, 250 families received home visits … 400 children received free books and 100 caregivers received monthly training.”

Floyd Creech, who accepted the award with Debbie Hyler, said, “Our goal is that every child from zero to three who can’t afford books in Florence will have a library of 24 to 70 books by the time they are three years old.” In 2014, they distributed more than ten thousand books during home visits.

Tutor Eau Claire, the literacy outreach of Eau Claire Shalom Ministries, has provided affordable tutoring for dyslexic children and adults in Columbia since 2000. The effort started out as a small community center serving 10 children a year, and has since expanded to serving hundreds of families annually. Presenter Kim Jeffcoat said, “Tutor Eau Claire raises awareness of dyslexia and the importance of early intervention to prevent reading failure. [The organization] shares its message of help and hope for struggling readers not only in the Midlands, but throughout South Carolina and beyond.”

Tracey Ely accepted the award on behalf of Tutor Eau Claire. She said, “I don’t really receive it for myself but for the many unsung heroes who advocate for dyslexic children: the families that never give up, the students who never give up on themselves, the tutors and volunteers who give their time and talents to help students overcome reading failure and the many partners who support our mission.”

Julie Bascom was awarded one of the Peggy Parish Prizes, presented by Will Balk, for her role as a literacy advocate. Bascom is the Youth Services Manager for the Hilton Head Branch of the Beaufort County Library. Balk said of Bascom that “this woman has seen opportunity where others, only see limitations. Bascom interpreted her role [as librarian] broadly, and defined her mission as one of outreach to communities long underserved by the library system.”

Bascom was “extremely honored” to receive the award. She explained that a personal encounter with Peggy Parrish during her graduate studies in Mississippi encouraged her to go into children’s library services. “She inspired me as a student, of course first as a child, but then as a graduate student. And then to be the recipient of this award in the later years of my career … there’s Amelia Bedilia and Peggy Parrish still poking me from behind saying ‘keep on and make this fun and reach more families.’”

Vicky Culbertson was the second recipient of the Peggy Parish Prize. Culbertson is a certified reading specialist and school librarian in Laurens County. Professors Clayton Copeland and Karen Gavigan presented the award to Culbertson, saying that she “has worked tirelessly to promote the love of reading in her students, whether they are beginning readers or high school students. When it seemed there was little hope or limited opportunities to make a difference, she created them.” Many of Culbertson’s students have moved on to become librarians and instructors themselves, including Copeland. “Ms. Culberston created a peaceful, safe place for children to learn to become lifelong readers,” Copeland said.

Culbertson explained that she feels “a kindred spirit” with Peggy Parrish. She gave credit to all those “who tolerate and encourage my ideas and brainstorms.” She is currently in her 37th year as a middle school librarian “with no end in sight.”

The Literacy Leader Awards, also know as "ALL 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. Recipients are recognized for their contributions in developing and implementing innovative and creative approaches to literacy education, establishing models of best practices in literacy education, and providing service to underserved groups and communities.


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Haley Hinze

Haley Hinze is a second-year Master of Mass Communication student from Greenville, S.C. With interests in public relations and visual communications, she aspires to enter the magazine publishing industry. When she's not in school, you can find her traveling almost anywhere.

Challenge the conventional. Create the exceptional. No Limits.