This year marked the 10th Anniversary of Together We Can Read (TWCR) initiative, a partnership with the City of Columbia and Richland County School District One, that promotes literacy with 3rd grade students and allows guest readers to have a front row seat to witness the innovative instruction taking place in the state’s sixth largest school district. For the past 10 years, a total of 1,000 guest readers have volunteered an hour to read a South Carolina-based book to more than 20,000 3rd grade students.
This year’s celebration included a kick-off press conference hosted by TWCR Founder and Councilwoman Tameika Isaac Devine on Monday, March 19, 2018, in Council Chambers. Richland County School District One Superintendent Dr. Craig Witherspoon and Board of Commissioners Vice Chair Jaime L. Devine also participated in the press conference. You can view the coverage of the press conference by clicking here.
The book chosen for the milestone celebration was The Freedom Ship of Robert Smalls written by Louise Meriwether and illustrated by Jonathan Green. Both Meriwether and Green have South Carolina ties. Meriwether’s parents were from South Carolina, although she was born and grew up in the state of New York. Green is a native of Gardners Corner, South Carolina, and has gained acclaim as one of the most important contemporary artists of the Southern experience.
Green participated in promoting Reading Day with a recorded video. Green says, “I think when kids pick up this book and look at the images because that’s what they are going to see first. Then they will read the book. They are going to be really surprised about the history and the culture of the book.”
When asked about the importance of reading at a young age, Green says, “It helps you to design a beautiful life of interest in other cultures, your own history and where you come from. You will always be able to have great dialogue from reading. Reading is the essence of life and the beauty of freedom.”
This year, 116 guest readers read in 127 classrooms in 30 elementary schools across the district to nearly 2,000 3rd grade students. Devine, Columbia Mayor Steve Benjamin, City Council members, community leaders and volunteers from around the Midlands helped to bring The Freedom Ship of Robert Smalls to life on Wednesday, March 21. Guest readers also talked with students about the historical importance of the book. Students in the 3rd grade in Richland One take a field study to Charleston and many students were aware of some of the landmarks mentioned in the book based on that field study. Each student receives a copy of The Freedom Ship of Robert Smalls to add to their personal libraries.
For pictures from TWCR Reading Day, click here to see our photo gallery.
The idea for the partnership between the City of Columbia and Richland County School District One took shape after Columbia City Council members, administrators and staff, along with administrators and board members from Richland Couny School District One visited another school district. The ride home provided to be very insightful for Councilwoman Tameika Isaac Devine. Devine says, “On the way back, I had a conversation with then Superintendent Dr. Percy Mack and one of the things that Dr. Mack said, “I’d just be happy if we had people to come read to our students. You couldn’t imagine how important that is for someone to come in and read to our students.” Mack was the superintendent of Richland County School District One from July 2008 – June 2014.
The reason this initiative targets 3rd grade is because it is a transitional year for student success as readers and in life. Devine says, “Statistics show that if children are not reading on grade level by the 3rd grade, then they are more apt to fall behind and sometimes drop out of school. Also in 3rd grade, children are just so excited to have classroom visitors to come in.”
The TWCR initiative has three objectives:
To encourage and promote reading. Youth are prone to model the behavior that they see. So if students see adults reading and sharing their love for books and knowledge, then children are more prone to pick up on that behavior and read as well.
To provide an avenue for community volunteers to visit schools. Schools and teachers are teaching the same content in new and innovative ways to inspire and encourage students to learn. More often than not community leaders and business owners are not aware of the multifaceted approach to teaching. As a result of community leaders participating in Reading Day, a number of strong partnerships have formed. These partnerships have resulted in business leaders adopting schools and regularly volunteering in efforts throughout the schools.
To support South Carolina authors and South Carolina-based books. The 10 books that have been chosen for TWCR Reading Day include a wide array of book topics, but one thing remains consistent, each promotes South Carolina culture, history and landmarks.
Devine shares how students react long after the Reading Day, “I still get calls or emails sometimes from children who have gone through Together We Can Read years later and they remember that opportunity to have someone come into their classroom.
Previous Featured Books
Here is a listing of the books that have been read over the past 10 years:
2009 – Charley’s Columbia Backyard by Caroline Coleman Bennett
2010 – Bellman Visits South Carolina by Brenda Richards and Brantley Parrott
2011 – Tori Explores South Carolina by Ashlye Victoria Rumph-Geddis
2012 – All Around Town: The Photographs of Richard Samuel Roberts by Dinah Johnson
2013 – Dave the Potter by Laban Carrick Hill
2014 – This Is the Rope: A Story from the Great Migration by Jacqueline Woodson
2015 – First, You Explore: The Story of the Young Charles Townes by Rachel Haynie
2016 – Katie’s Cabbage by Katie Stagliano
2017 – #Justachicken by Preston Thorne and Langston Moore
2018 – The Freedom Ship of Robert Smalls by Louise Meriwether