Cocky’s Reading Express heading to the Outback
By Megan Sexton, email@example.com, 803-777-1421
Tampa, get ready to read.
Cocky’s Reading Express will be rolling into Florida for the Outback Bowl, with University of South Carolina student volunteers, staff members and Cocky ready to distribute 1,000 free books to children around the city.
The bus, which features a larger-than-life graphic of the USC mascot, will be part of the Outback Bowl Parade through Ybor City on New Year’s Eve. Cocky and student volunteers, armed with bags of books for young readers, will march alongside.
“Instead of candy or beads, we’ll be handing books to children along the parade route and afterward at the pep rally,” said Kim Jeffcoat, director of Cocky’s Reading Express, the popular literacy program that provides quality books to children, along with visits from USC student volunteers and the Carolina mascot. The nation’s first college mascot program of its kind has given out more than 50,000 free books since it was launched by USC’s Student Government in 2005.
The trip allows Cocky’s Reading Express to spread the word about the importance of reading and showcase the student-led initiative that combats illiteracy. The bus, made possible this year by a gift from BP, also offers an example of what strong partnerships can mean for a program, Jeffcoat said.
“We want people to see USC as having a great athletic team, but also to see what we are doing to help the community,” Jeffcoat said. “And we want to improve our host town a little. By putting books in their community, it’s a thank you for having us and allows us to leave the place a little better.”
The eight students who will accompany Cocky on the bus were chosen because of their commitment to the program. These students spent 688 hours this year traveling to schools around South Carolina, sharing the gifts of books and literacy with children. Throughout the year, Cocky’s Reading Express participants volunteered 2,113 hours of their time.
After the Gamecocks take on Michigan in the Outback Bowl Jan. 1, Cocky will resume his literacy duties on Jan. 2, visiting the Robert W. Saunders Sr. Public Library in Tampa where he will donate 500 books to be distributed to area children.
“When we leave, we want the last glimpse that Tampa has of the Gamecocks to be the 500 books we’ve donated to the library,” Jeffcoat said.
About the parade
- The Outback Bowl Parade begins at 5:30 p.m. Dec. 31 along 7th Avenue in Ybor City. It will feature floats and 20 marching bands.
- The parade will be followed by a pep rally with the college bands and cheerleaders.
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.
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