On Thursday October 1st, a dedicated group of program directors, educators, and advocates trudged through Charleston’s historic rainfall to launch the expansion of BEGIN WITH BOOKS with a North Charleston campaign event at the Lowcountry Graduate Center. BEGIN WITH BOOKS is a local nonprofit, and affiliate of Dolly Parton’s Imagination Library, that delivers free books to young children and their families to support active reading participation and enjoyment. Before in home deliveries can begin in North Charleston, the campaign must raise $150,000 to fund the cost of delivering free books monthly to every registered preschool aged child, heavily subsidized by Dolly Parton. Any and every child can be enlisted.
During the event, a panel of speakers encouraged involvement in the BEGIN WITH BOOKS campaign with various forms of support from financial donations to volunteering opportunities. “BEGIN WITH BOOKS fosters the kind of environment in which children’s language development and interest in reading can thrive,” said Dr. Larry G. Daniel, Dean of the Zucker Family School of Education at The Citadel.
These leaders in our community not only encouraged attendees to participate in the BEGIN WITH BOOKS campaign, but also emphasized the importance of working together as a community to combat the educational struggles of the Lowcountry, which are so essential to economic growth and prosperity.
Anita Zucker, CEO of the InterTech Group, stressed the importance of fostering a community of “thinkers and do-ers” saying that “the world is changing at an alarming rate. How are we going to ensure that we keep up with that fast paced, ever-changing landscape of technology and innovation? The answer lies in our ability to build solid networks between our institutions of higher education, our K-12 schools and our families throughout the community.” In other words, our successes in education are key to advancing the livelihood of the Lowcounty community.
BEGIN WITH BOOKS operates on the evidence-based knowledge that children who have access to reading materials from an early age are less likely to experience reading difficulties as they enter school. Furthermore, children who start school with little exposure to reading skills have even more difficultly trying to catch up in later years, particularly by 3rd grade when instruction shifts from learning to read, to reading to learn.
The Tri-County Cradle to Career Collaborative recently published a regional education report that details some statistics related to education and low-income correlations in Charleston, Berkeley and Dorchester counties. This data revealed that:
- 17% of local 3rd graders do not meet grade-level reading standards
- On average, lower income 3rd grade students scored significantly lower than their higher-income peers
- 32% of local 8th graders in SC are not reading at grade level
- Again, lower income 8th graders scored significantly lower than their higher-income peers
Growing evidence suggests that early childhood education and coaching parents to stimulate their children are crucial to breaking the poverty cycle and its effects on education. A lack of school readiness creates a snowball effect and the obstacles become too difficult to overcome in later years. The effects of reading difficulty early on lead to higher high school drop out rates, the need for remediation if entering higher education, and lower achievements over a lifetime.
How can you support community efforts to improve educational success of Tri-County students? How do your own educational and professional goals align with improving our community? Donating, volunteering, and/or advocating for groups such as Begin with Books is an impactful contribution. For more information on BEGIN WITH BOOKS visit their website or Facebook page. If you are interested in pursuing a career in K-12 teaching, you can also explore higher education opportunities such as those provided by the Zucker Family School of Education at The Citadel, which offers graduate level degrees and certificates in literacy education.
To view photos from the BEGIN WITH BOOKS North Charleston Expansion Campaign event visit the Lowcountry Graduate Center’s Flickr album.