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March 30, 2016

Reading Partners Charleston hosts reading advocacy events

In the month of March, Reading Partners Charleston had the chance to bring volunteers, educators, advocates, and politicians together to talk about how the Charleston community can do better for its students. The two events, Race to Reading Proficiency: A Tri-County Town Hall and Rally for Reading, both began conversations around increasing proficiency for South Carolina kids.

How do we help our most fragile learners?

At the Tri-County Town Hall on March 7, 150 people gathered at the College of Charleston North Campus to listen to panelists discuss the Read to Succeed Act legislation passed by the state of South Carolina in 2014. Before the panel discussion, keynote speaker and President of Trident Technical College, Dr. Mary Thornley, set the mood of the morning by telling her own story of struggle, and eventual success. As she said to attendees, she is a “product of opportunity,” and every child in South Carolina deserves the opportunity to reach his or her full potential.

Dr. Thornley’s message of hope was only fueled by the jarring data collected by the Tri-County Cradle to Career Collaborative (TCCC) over the past year, showcasing the reality of the state of reading in the Tri-County. TCCC’s report stated that 62 percent of Tri-County students are not reading on grade level by third grade (2016). The real life implication of this statistic is that thousands of Tri-County students will face mandatory retention in 2017-18, forcing them to repeat third grade, if their reading scores do not improve. This is a direct result of the passage of the Read to Succeed Act in South Carolina.

Panelists further broke down the components of Read to Succeed with guided questions from the moderator. While panelists felt Read to Succeed is a necessary, base-level solution to solving the literacy crisis, they also felt the state and school districts could be doing more to help struggling readers.

Many conversations amongst panelists turned to family engagement — a topic not yet tackled by Read to Succeed, or the state. Panelists expressed that schools, in partnership with programs like Reading Partners, should give families the tools they need to advocate for their kids early on in their education. As a result of this discussion, Reading Partners is working on a summer component that would help engage families and their young readers all summer long.

Turning words into action

Offered as a next step for Town Hall attendees to continue advocating for early reading and education, Reading Partners Charleston hosted a Rally for Reading advocacy event on March 16. In total, 30 individuals hopped on a bus traveling to the State House in Columbia to talk to legislators about a $400,000 proviso currently in the House budget. Proviso funds would allow Reading Partners Charleston to serve as a literacy intervention pilot for the state of South Carolina and provide much needed student data to determine the best course of action to help readers. If successful, the pilot could pave the way for more evidence-based literacy interventions to receive funding at the state level.

It was a crowded day at the State House, but Reading Partners’ presence was hard to miss. All 30 attendees wore blue Reading Partners shirts and the trademark orange lanyards. Tutor Jocelyn Rish was among the attendees shaking hands and speaking with legislators. Her favorite moment of the day occurred when Reading Partners was officially acknowledged during the House and Senate sessions. She says the moment gave her a “huge burst of energy and inspiration to hear people clapping for all the hard work Reading Partners does.”

Our work isn’t finished

Reading Partners Charleston is far from finished when it comes to advocating for our kids. There are so many great ways to continue to build upon the work we’re already doing in reading centers, and it’s important we include our Reading Partners advocates in the conversation. If you have any ideas about what more we can be doing for our students, share with us. Also, stay tuned for more information about how you can help prevent summer learning loss for our students.

Stay up-to-date on Reading Partners policy efforts by signing up to receive our monthly policy newsletter.

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