Cocky’s Reading Express rolls into Lexington-Richland Five

Cocky high-fives a student at H.E. Corley Elementary for making the Cocky Promise to read each day.

Cocky high-fives a student at H.E. Corley Elementary for making the Cocky Promise to read each day.

Just hours after cheering the Gamecocks on to victory at Williams-Brice Stadium, Cocky was busy getting the younger generation excited about literacy as Cocky’s Reading Express kicked off the new school year Aug. 30.

Leaphart Elementary and H.E. Corley Elementary schools of Lexington-Richland Five welcomed Cocky and his team of University of South Carolina students Friday. Each of the volunteers brought one of their favorite books to share with the kindergarten and first-grade students.

Before opening the pages, the USC students talked about how important reading is to them in their different courses of study. CRE Program Coordinator Christine Shelek agreed and reminded the kids that reading will help them achieve their “when I grow up” jobs whether they want to be a police officer, teacher or football player.

Just as a volunteer was about to begin reading “Chicken Little”, Cocky surprised the kids by running into the auditorium, ready to listen to one of his most favorite stories. He acted as the frantic Chicken Little and got the kids involved in the well-known tale by pulling a few kindergarteners from their seats to be other main characters.

At the end of the book, Cocky hung around to read “Pete the Cat”, too. As the CRE program came to a close, students and teachers alike could be heard singing along to the story as he danced to the tune about Pete’s white shoes and his colorful walk.

“We’re here to make literacy fun,” Shelek said. “We know Cocky is a role model, and we hope the students will see that he enjoys reading and take that knowledge home with them.”

Watching the excitement on everyone’s face, H.E. Corley Elementary Media Specialist Susan Rowe knew the kids certainly would remember Cocky’s visit.

“We will be talking about this next week,” she predicted. “We’ll keep the spirit going.”

Student volunteers share their favorite books during a Cocky's Reading Express visit.

Student volunteers share their favorite books during a Cocky’s Reading Express visit.

Of course, a visit from CRE wouldn’t be complete without the kids receiving a book of their own to take home. Before handing them out, Cocky asked each of the kids to make him a promise that they would read one book a day or have someone read to them once a day.

Since the program’s inception in 2005, thousands of students have made the Cocky Promise to read daily. The USC volunteers, which can be of any major, have made stops in all of South Carolina’s 46 counties to pass out a total of nearly 63,000 books.

CRE, made possible through a collaboration between the School of Library and Information Science and Student Government, targets kindergarten through second grade to impact students in the critical years of literacy learning.

To collect data on how the program is benefiting schools, volunteers give children a pre- and post-test when they visit with Cocky. The short questionnaire is designed to gauge students’ interest in books and how the presentation improved their view of the message that “reading is fun”.

Lexington-Richland Five played host to the CRE volunteers and Cocky on Friday, but kids across the entire state will have the chance to read with the beloved mascot this year. Thanks to a Central Carolina Community Foundation grant and partnership with Arnold School of Public Health, the Cocky’s Reading Express bus will arrive in Calhoun County, an area of identified need. A full schedule of other stops is also planned.

Volunteer opportunities with Cocky’s Reading Express are open to all USC undergraduate and graduate students.

Categories: Education, Lexington County, Richland County

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