Awards honor literacy leaders

The members of Kappa Kappa Gamma sorority, who help inspire young readers, are among the winners of the 10th annual Literacy Leaders Awards who will be honored at a Sept. 8 reception at the University of South Carolina.

The awards are a combination of efforts from the School of Library and Information Science and the South Carolina State Library, with funding from the Library of Congress. The ALL Awards recognize groups and individuals who impact literacy in a broad and diverse way, says Kim Jeffcoat, executive director of the South Carolina Center for Children’s Books and Literacy at Carolina.

“It’s wonderful to gather people from around the state that have already done good work,” Jeffcoat says.

Kappa Kappa Gamma’s national philanthropic partner is Reading Is Fundamental (RIF), and the women in the chapter at Carolina encourage young children to find enjoyment in reading.

Emily Fuldner, president of Kappa Kappa Gamma, says students can often get caught up in the stress of busy college classes, but it is important to remember “we wouldn’t be here if someone didn’t give us a book.”

As a public health major, Hannah Marcoux has learned about underdeveloped countries with low literacy rates, but there are communities in this country where children don’t have books.

“Some of the kids in these areas don’t even have one book to call their own,” says Marcoux, KKG’s philanthropy chair. “I couldn’t imagine growing up like that.”

Part of KKG’s philanthropy includes raising money for RIF and collecting books for local communities. The sorority partners with the RIF program at Brookland-Cayce Grammar School, as well as the annual Reading Rocks event offered for the Richland One School District in Columbia. Fuldner says the goal of Reading Rocks is to get the students excited about reading and send them home with the books KKG has collected.

The event features guest speakers, a students-vs.-teachers jeopardy game, face painting, story reading and more. Members of Kappa Kappa Gammas are involved in every aspect of the event.

“They are very enthusiastic volunteers who serve willingly and with such passion and concern,” says Ida Thompson, former director of Instructional Technology Services for Richland One who nominated KKG. “I have long admired their positive responses to my requests to participate in RIF activities.”

While RIF is KKG’s national partner, chapter members also focus on other literacy events, including Cocky’s Reading Express. At least three or four women volunteer each week with the university’s mascot-led literacy effort, Marcoux says.

“Their impact is tremendous and supports schools in reaching students at a critical time in their educational development,” Thompson writes in her nomination essay. “The positive influence of Kappa Kappa Gamma in aspiring readers to be successful is important work that this group has wholeheartedly embraced.”

Kappa Kickoff, the fall philanthropy event involving a flag football tournament, will raise money for RIF as well as collect book donations. The event will be held in November.

Other literacy winners who will be honored Thursday include Darion McCloud and Denise Lyons. McCloud is the creative director of the NiA Theatre Company and Story Squad, which addresses literacy and arts exposure for children. Lyons is a South Carolina State Library deputy director for statewide development who has emphasized literacy.

This year’s Peggy Parish Prize is being awarded to Kim Williams Odom. She is Charleston County Public Library’s John L. Dart Library manager, and she created a literacy program for families in Charleston in honor of Cynthia Graham Hurd, a Carolina alumna who was killed in the 2015 shootings at the Emanuel AME Church in Charleston.

Sam Hastings, the former director of the School of Library and Information Science, began the ALL awards in 2007 to thank the legislators and community members who helped secure the endowment for the Augusta Baker chair. The annual awards have grown to honor groups and individuals who work toward literacy in South Carolina and the region.

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