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Posted January 10, 2018
By Joe Scotchie-Lenzo, reprinted from InterCom

A $100,000 grant from the Hearst Foundations is paving the way for the College of Information and Communications to enhance literacy throughout South Carolina. 

The grant has funded WeReadSC, a partnership between the CIC’s South Carolina Center for Children’s Books and Literacy and USC’s College of Education. West Columbia, South Carolina, was chosen as the pilot community for the initiative. WeReadSC is working directly with BC Grammar Elementary School and the Cayce-West Columbia branch of the Lexington County Public Library.

Team members from the College of Education work with teachers at BC Grammar, providing them with professional development to improve reading practices for their students. Statistics from a variety of studies including the Annie B. Casey Foundation show that the end of third grade is critical for children to read proficiently. 

At the Cayce-West Columbia branch, WeReadSC is working with staff to develop and implement best practices for communication between the library and the school.

The hope is that West Columbia will serve as a launching pad. “We are building a flexible, replicable program that can be taken across the state to other communities,” said Pamela Hoppock, coordinator of logistics for WeReadSC.

What does that program look like? “We are designing surveys for teachers, librarians, parents and students to find out their attitudes towards reading and literacy and how can we all come together to improve it,” said Hoppock. Grant funding has been used to purchase SWIVL devices for recording reading interactions between students and teachers, which the College of Education can analyze as it refines its efforts. The grant has also covered hundreds of books and a portable iPad charging station for taking digital surveys into the community.

WeReadSC is maximizing its community outreach by collaborating with organizations such as BeginningsSC, a nonprofit that provides education and support to children and families impacted by hearing loss. PASOs, an organization that helps connect South Carolina’s Latinos with health education and services, has provided Spanish translation services. And the CIC’s literacy initiative, Cocky’s Reading Express, has been brought on board to deliver quality programming to the children targeted by the initiative. 

“There are a lot of moving pieces that go into creating a community literacy program beyond the school and the public library of all families who speak different languages and have different backgrounds,” said Christine Shelek, program coordinator for CRE.

“We want WeReadSC to be as popular and effective as Cocky’s Reading Express,” said Hoppock, who wants to raise awareness about the importance of reading. “We’d like for everyone to be talking about how much fun it is to read. Reading is not just a school subject. It’s a life skill.”

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