The ability for a child to read by the fourth grade is not disputed as a critical element for success in life. In South Carolina, however, reading scores for the state’s fourth graders haven’t substantially improved since 2002. A documentary film, “The Right to Read,” comes to Columbia for a screening on Friday, July 21, to spotlight successes in areas like South Carolina where this disparity is even more evident when comparing Black and brown students’ scores with white students’ scores.
The film focuses on incorporating the “science of reading” into school curriculum. The SC Department of Education defines the science of reading “evidence-based teaching practices, supported by decades of brain research, that effectively teach children the fundamentals of reading.” The screening event will serve as an impetus to encourage community conversations around the issue of reading disparities and possible solutions in South Carolina.
“‘The Right to Read’ follows the heroic journey of committed educators as they discover the knowledge they need to unlock the gift of reading for their most vulnerable students. The vital importance of using brain science to inform how we empower every child with the foundational skill of early literacy is a theme that unites us across every divide,” says Ellen Weaver, South Carolina Superintendent of Education. “South Carolina is on the cusp of a reading renaissance, and this touching film is a powerful testimony to the hope and possibility of the journey ahead, as we fight to equip every student in the Palmetto State to reach their full, God-given potential through the power of reading.”
“The Right to Read” shares the stories of an NAACP activist and South Carolina native, Kareem Weaver; a teacher; and two American families who fight to provide the country’s youngest generation with the most foundational indicator of life-long success: the ability to read.
Weaver, who earned a master’s degree in clinical-community psychology from the University of South Carolina, focuses on literacy as an individual’s most important civil right. The film spotlights Weaver’s work to demand Oakland, CA, schools bring in science-based reading instruction to their students. A first-grade teacher becomes one of his most critical allies.
The film also follows a Virginia Beach teacher who trains parents in oral language skills to prepare their children for kindergarten. In rural Mississippi, where only 21% of children can read, a teacher looks at educational technology to help her child develop early reading skills.
Lavar Burton is the film’s producer. He is well-known for his long-running PBS children’s series, Reading Rainbow, and his advocacy on behalf of young children.
The documentary screening and a panel conversation will take place on Friday, July 21, starting at 9:30 a.m. at the Richland School District Two Innovation Center at 763 Fashion Drive in Columbia. The event and lunch are free but prior registration is required. The screening event is a partnership among several South Carolina education organizations – ALL4SC, The Reading League of South Carolina and Collaborative Classroom. This screening and panel discussion are intended for anyone who has a passion for ensuring all South Carolinians learn to read. Educators, parents and community leaders are encouraged to attend.
Following the screening, Patrick Riccards, CEO of the Driving Force Institute for Public Engagement and Collaborative Classroom board member, will facilitate a panel discussion among the following South Carolina education leaders:
- Brooke Bridges, Teacher, Lexington Richland District 5
- Josh Davis, VP for Policy and Partnerships, StriveTogether
- Matthew Ferguson, Deputy Superintendent, SC Department of Education
- Tamecia Graham, Executive Director of Early Childhood/Elementary Instruction, Chester County Schools
- Victor Young, Director, ALL4SC