Fridat’s a big day for Cocky’s Reading Express.
The University of South Carolina’s mascot-led literacy program rolled into Oconee County Friday (Jan. 11), ready to share the love of reading and free books with students at two elementary schools. It marks the 46th South Carolina county the program has visited since it started in 2005.
“Reaching all 46 counties underscores the reality that all of us benefit when children learn to read, and all of us pay a price if we ignore any part of the state,” said Charles Bierbauer, dean of the College of Mass Communications and Information Studies.
The literacy program features the Carolina mascot and USC student volunteers who travel the state in their own bus, visiting elementary schools and reading to students. More than 55,500 free books have been distributed to children since the program started in 2005.
“We go all over the state and each year we see more and more students. Now we’ve had the opportunity to see students and give out books in all 46 counties,” said Kim Jeffcoat, director of Cocky’s Reading Express.
While Cocky’s Reading Express is marking a milestone, it’s also ready to take new steps to combat literacy. Over the next year, Jeffcoat said the program will add evaluation tools and technology to its programming. Students will be tested before and after visits, and Cocky’s Reading Express hopes to leave some technology behind at schools, including iPads loaded with children’s books.
“We want to be able to evaluate not only if students are more excited about reading, but whether they spend more hours reading and if their reading level improves after our visits,” Jeffcoat said. “We have great scope. Now we’re adding depth.”
About Cocky’s Reading Express
• Cocky’s Reading Express is a collaboration of the University of South Carolina Student Government and the university’s School of Library and Information Science. USC students travel the state with Cocky, visiting elementary schools across South Carolina. The students read to the children, and Cocky helps the children understand the importance of life-long reading.
• The program primarily serves students in 4K through second grade because research shows that if children acquire strong reading skills and a love of reading by the end of second grade they are more likely to succeed academically and graduate on time. The program’s priority is reaching students in under-served public schools.
• Each child is given a book to take home, a reminder of the visit from Cocky and the USC students.