USCA school book drive spotlights African-American authors, characters

March 1, 2018 GMT

USC Aiken students, faculty and staff made it easier for students at North Aiken Elementary to reach their goal of reading 20,000 books this school year.

And they celebrated Black History Month, too.

In recognition of February as a special time to honor the achievements of African-Americans, the USCA family collected and donated 47 books by African-American authors and illustrators or featuring African-American characters to North Aiken.

Students delivered the books Wednesday, read some of them aloud, had the children read with them and talked and answered questions about going to college with the children.


USCA’s Black History Month Steering Committee organized the book drive, said Taifha Baker, the assistant director of Student Life for Diversity Initiatives at the university.

The committee chose North Aiken Elementary in particular because about 82 percent of its students are African-American, according to the U.S. Department of Education’s Office of Civil Rights data collection tool, Baker said.

“We wanted to make sure that North Aiken Elementary had books that had characters that looked like the children who go to this school,” she said. “That was important.”

Kendra Williams, the school counselor at North Aiken Elementary, said the books will help the school reach its goal of reading 20,000 books as part of this year’s literacy project, Reading Our Way to Emerald City.

Using the famous Yellow-Brick Road from the book and movie “The Wonderful Wizard of Oz,” students receive a brick on the path to the Emerald City for every 100 books they read.

“The students will be able to log the books that were read aloud to them or that they read with the students from USC Aiken today,” Williams said. “We are steadily moving along. We have classes in first grade and kindergarten that have already read 900 books.”

The new books also will reinforce the S.C. Department of Education’s Read to Succeed program, Williams said.

“We’re working to meet the challenge – with second-graders, in particular – that all students are reading at grade level or above by the third grade,” she said.

The USCA students also delivered 33 books to Aiken High and 19 to Schofield Middle School.

The percentage of African-American students at Aiken High and Schofield is lower than at North Aiken, Baker said, but added that “African-American students are disciplined at a disproportionate rate.”

“We thought that giving these books to those schools in particular would help those students see themselves in a positive light,” Baker said.

Schofield Principal Denise McCray said it is “so important for our students to be able to see themselves reflected positively in literature.”

“This is a great opportunity for our students to have more exposure to good books that encourage them to read and grow,” she said.