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College of Information and Communications

Literacy program helps children ‘dig into reading’

Posted November 14, 2019
By Maria Jutton, Dean's Communications Fellow


A nearly $15,000 grant from International Paper is helping Cocky’s Reading Express promote nutrition and community literacy in two upstate elementary schools. The program, Dig Into Reading, educates students at E.B. Morse and Ford Elementary, Title I schools in Laurens County.

Christine Shelek, executive director of the South Carolina Center for Community Literacy, says she applied for funding after noticing International Paper’s interest in literacy on Twitter.

“I remember just kind of screaming when I got the email that said we were going to receive the grant,” she says.

As part of Dig Into Reading, Cocky’s Reading Express conducts school visits in which the University of South Carolina mascot and a team volunteers act out a selection of books, emphasize the importance of daily reading and send participants home with new books of their own. The program also includes family literacy nights, where children and their families enjoy a meal together and receive tips on promoting literacy at home. Each family receives a literacy kit with books for children and adults on topics ranging from nutrition to gardening.

“We’re super excited,” Shelek says. “The school visits have been great and the employees who I’ve worked with at International Paper have been fantastic.”

In the future, Shelek would like to replicate Dig Into Reading in another county. She plans to apply for another grant to fund this expansion.

“Our literacy programming goes beyond distributing books,” Shelek says. “It better prepares South Carolina’s workforce and improves the quality of life in each of the state’s 46 counties. And thanks to donors like International Paper, we’re making an impact in the communities where these efforts are needed the most.”

To date, Cocky’s Reading Express has distributed over 134,000 books to children in underserved schools across South Carolina.  


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Maria Jutton

 Maria Jutton is a fourth-year journalism student and Dean's Communications Fellow at the School of Journalism and Mass Communications. She is especially passionate about international communications and will pursue overseas work after she graduates in May 2020.


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