Rantin: Bags packed with literacy

brantin@thestate.com (803) 771-8306January 2, 2014 

Students in Michelle Martin’s Library and Information Science class pack bookbags.

PHOTO COURTESY OF USC MEDIA RELATIONS

— It was a passion for literacy and a desire to serve that framed a recent educational outreach by some University of South Carolina students.

Members of Michelle Martin’s children’s literature class at USC put their classroom lessons into action shortly before the winter break when they prepared 90 backpacks of books for area 5- and 6-year-old Girl Scout troop members.

The group’s Daisy Power Project was coordinated with the local Girl Scouts Mountains to the Midlands council with the hopes of improving literacy at the Daisy Girl Scout troop level – the organization’s youngest age group – in high-need areas.

“Everyone is aware of the epidemic of illiteracy in South Carolina,” said Martin, a lifelong Girl Scout. “Girls Scouts can have a huge influence on changing that.

“Since literacy acquisition gives us power, we thought that putting ‘power’ in the name was important.”

While working with the Girl Scouts as an adult, Martin learned about an effort to provide family literacy bags to area youth as part of a local summer literacy camp.

In recent weeks, her USC class members mirrored those efforts as they prepared bags filled with books, pencils, crayons and hands-on and family activities for parents.

“I made the book selections based partly on popularity – since research indicates that children will work harder to read books they are interested in – partly on costs and partly on my awareness of the emphasis on nonfiction in the new Common Core State Standards,” Martin said.

About 14 students took part in the project.

“I learned that literacy isn’t just about reading. It’s about getting children to think deeper so that they can make better sense of the world they live in,” said Badriyyah Adly, one of Martin’s students. “I was also able to see the importance of having the family involved in literacy. The Daisy Power Project doesn’t just improve literacy in children but in the whole family.”

Martin, who is the Augusta Baker chair in Childhood Literacy at USC, saids her goal is to rid South Carolina of illiteracy one child at a time.

“I’m delighted we have been able to contribute to the Daisy Power Project to help the Mountains to Midlands (council) participate in making South Carolina a more literate state.”

She said the experience was a great opportunity for her students to give back to the community in a way that’s relevant to their future careers.

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