Practice makes perfect, both on the football field and for students in and out of the classroom. That’s the message that Dabo Swinney, Kathleen Swinney and members of the Clemson University Football Team will send to more than 250 elementary school students on Wednesday, May 4 at 10:30 a.m. at the Clemson Indoor Practice Facility.
The Swinneys and Clemson student athletes will join faculty from the Clemson University College of Education and representatives from Scholastic, the global children’s publishing, education and media company, to celebrate the Tigers Read! Initiative, now in its seventh year. The initiative, which is led by the Clemson University Early Literacy Center and sponsored by Dabo’s All In Team Foundation, aims to prevent the decline in reading skills many students experience during summer months.
According to C.C. Bates, professor of literacy in Clemson’s College of Education and director of the center, learning to read is the foundation for all academic success and fighting summer reading setback is critical to students’ longitudinal outcomes.
“It’s so important to take steps forward in reading development over the summer, but, unfortunately, many children go in the opposite direction,” Bates said. “We’ve found an extremely effective combo: supplying children with books and having the coaches and athletes they look up to talk about the importance of reading.”
According to Bates, 25 school districts from across the state are involved in the project, so hundreds of students in addition to those who attend the event receive books through the program. The last in-person Tigers Read! event took place in May 2019, but teachers and district partners across the state coordinated the delivery of books to more than 1,000 children each summer for the last two years. To date, support from the All In Foundation has allowed the Tigers Read! Initiative to send nearly 82,000 books home to children across South Carolina.
In addition to this outreach, Bates recruited a longitudinal sample of first graders who began receiving books in 2017 to further research the effects of the “reading outreach” over time. The students received books three consecutive summers, but unfortunately the research project was interrupted by the COVID-19 pandemic. Bates is excited to re-engage the work with a new cohort beginning this summer.
“Our main goal between first and second grade is for students to maintain the progress they made during the academic year. With the longitudinal sample, we were actually seeing gains in reading over the summer, which is highly encouraging,” Bates said. “We are excited to get back to an in-person event and get back to this research so we can demonstrate just how important summer reading is for children.”
Kelly Brown, senior account executive for Scholastic, has attended every Tigers Read! event since its first year and has also helped coordinate the sale of the books included in the students’ drawstring bags. Brown said that many children don’t have the opportunity to build a home library and doing so has become even more difficult due to the pandemic.
Brown said that another aspect of the 10-book bags that is powerful for children is the fact that the selection gives them some agency; independent reading tends to be more effective when children have the power to choose what they want to read.
Brown said she admired the fact that the All In Foundation and Clemson’s Early Literacy Center continued to perform this outreach in spite of having to cancel an in-person event. She said it demonstrates a commitment to combating the summer reading slump by the All In Foundation, Clemson University and the many district partners with which Clemson works.
“This event and the outreach work because they provide books that bridge the reading gap for kids while they engage them to be lifelong readers,” Brown said. “This event is one of the best things I have had the privilege to be a part of in my career; the excitement on these kids’ faces has been something I’ve truly missed over the last two years and I can’t wait to see it all happen again.”
In addition to student athletes and the Swinneys, children will meet with Clifford the Big Red Dog®, receive drawstring bags full of books to take home and enjoy a community sponsored hot dog lunch. Media are invited to attend the event to hear from the Swinneys as well as meet with athletes and teachers in attendance.
Bates and College of Education faculty taught children virtually through the Early Literacy Center during the pandemic, but have begun welcoming children and parents back to its physical location on the fourth floor of Tillman Hall in Clemson. If interested in making an appointment for a child through the center, contact C.C. Bates (firstname.lastname@example.org, 864-656-4506).
Media are invited to attend the event. For more information, contact Heather Miller (email@example.com, 864-607-7922) or Michael Staton (firstname.lastname@example.org, 864-933-0334).
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