Posted Sept. 18, 2014
By Kelsey Hart, public relations major
Call Me MISTER, Dr. Dianne Johnson and Literacy Volunteers of the Lowcountry were honored by the School of Library and Information Science, Sept. 9, 2014, with Literacy Leaders Awards. The awards recognize individuals, programs and organizations that have had a statewide impact on improving literacy in South Carolina.
The eighth annual ceremony was held at the South Carolina Center for Children's Books and Literacy. Emcee for the event was WLTX News 19 anchor Darci Strickland, a 1997 graduate of the USC School of Journalism and Mass Communications.
The 2014 awards ceremony included the inaugural Peggy Parish Prize given to two individuals who have personally improved childhood literacy in South Carolina. Recipients of the prize were Ida Thompson and Leslie Tetreault.
Call Me MISTER, started at Clemson University in 2000, is focused on getting more African American male elementary teachers into the classrooms. The MISTERs work in after school programs, volunteer in the community and work with academic coaches as part of the program.
Xavier Salley, a Clemson University senior and a member of the program, believes that literacy is the foundation to understanding. Salley says, "I can't teach a child mathematics if he doesn't understand the language of the problem that is being asked."
Dr. Dianne Johnson has spent 20 years teaching, reading and writing for children to encourage literacy. Many of her books celebrate diversity, explore family relationships and discuss the black experience. Under her pen name, Dinah Johnson, she has authored books such as "Black Magic," "Hair Dance," and "Sunday Week." Her writing inspires children to learn about history and to enjoy reading.
Literacy Volunteers of the Lowcountry was recognized for its effort in providing citizens of Beaufort County with the necessary reading, writing and speaking skills to be successful in the workplace and community. The organization provides programs in basic education, English language, workplace literacy and preparation for US citizenship. Beaufort County's schools have a 20 percent Latino population. Education in English for speakers of another language is one of its largest.
The organization director Jean Heyduck says, "The most significant impact on a child's ability to read is the mother's ability to read." Improving literacy in South Carolina must target children as well as adults.
Ida Thompson was awarded one of the Peggy Parish Prizes for her role as a literacy advocate. For the last 25 years, Thompson has helped get books into the hands of children by coordinating the Richland School District One Reading Is Fundamental program. The program has served more than 12,000 students and distributes over 40,000 new books annually. Thompson created Reading Rocks, a literacy celebration for the Richland School District One that brings together national and local authors, interactive games and provides free books to students.
"Literacy is the foundation of success for everyone. It's the common element that ensures us of having an opportunity to do good things for ourselves and for our community," says Thompson. She believes that everyone deserves the opportunity to be successful and that it begins with having the opportunity to read.
Leslie Tetreault is the second recipient of the Peggy Parish Prize. She has been the manager of the Children's Room at Richland Library since 1986 and started the All Around Town: All Around the State literacy initiative. The program gives at-risk third grade students books to engage them in reading. The program targets this age group because "third grade test scores are what cities look at when they determine how many prisons to build," says Tetreault.
Tetreault believes in making reading fun by making reading an experience. She helped start the City of Columbia's Together We Can Read program which brought 2,000 children to the Columbia Museum of Art. They met author Dinah Johnson and received autographed copies of her books. Tetreault believes that parents need to make reading an experience the whole family enjoys together by reading aloud from the time children are born.
The Literacy Leader Awards were created as part of the School of Library and Information Science's Children, Libraries and Literacy Initiative, a $6 million campaign launched in 2005 to eliminate illiteracy across South Carolina.
Kelsey Hart is a fifth-year public relations major from Albany, N.Y. She is minoring in economics and hopes to work as a media buyer. She was a member of the back-to-back championship SEC Equestrian team.