At a time when American literacy is in decline, Spartanburg citizens and teachers seem to have made an important discovery: Give a kid a book and he just might read it. Better yet, that child must just grow up to write a book or two!
More than a decade ago, Spartanburg School District 7 established a summer reading program called 7Reads. The effort was the result of a wonderful group of dedicated District 7 parents, who took it upon themselves to put some sizzle into the fun of summer reading. Over the years the summer reading program has not only flourished, it's evolved to become the overarching umbrella for a growing number of literacy initiatives in in the community. From Books with Barbers to Rotary Readers, District 7 partners with a number of local businesses and organizations, including the Spartanburg Public Library, to ensure that children are engaged in a wide range of literacy programs and exposed to ongoing opportunities for lifelong learning.
Geanna Culbertson, author of Crisanta Knight, at Pine Street School
While 7Reads was iniitally dedicated to promoting summer reading and putting a book in the hands of every student, Dr. Terry Pruitt, the District's Assistant Superintendent for Instruction says the initiative has grown to be much bigger. "If you take a look at the names of some of the visiting authors we've brought to the District over the years," said Pruitt, "you'll see that our students have been exposed to both budding and bestselling authors." Big names like Wes Moore, Kwame Alexander, Ron Rash, Mary Alice Monroe, Dori Sanders and Sharon Draper have all been visitors in our schools and this year, students will meet a number of notable newcomers to the literary world including, Derrius Quarles and Kristina McCorris.
"In the early years of 7Reads," said Pruitt, "our efforts were fairly seasonal with guest authors coming primarily in the fall. Now, our children are meeting new and prominent authors all year round." Pruitt pointed to the recent visit from Spartanburg High School alum and New York Times bestselling cookbook writer, Alexander Smalls, as one of the many highlights of the 7Reads program.
Since its inception in 2006, 7Reads has brought more than 35 authors to the District and has put brand new books in the hands of thousands of students (well over 11,000 in the last 11 years). 7Reads has also been modeled by over 100 high schools and colleges nationwide and was showcased nationally and internationally in 2007, when syndicated columnist Kathleen Parker applauded the program in her award-winning column in The Washington Post.
7Reads A Look Back Through the Years
Quotes from some of the Seven Reads Founders
“One of the missions at the inception of 7Reads was putting good books into the hands of young people who did not have the privilege of owning many books of their own. I knew our mission was being accomplished when by chance I met a young man on the front steps at Spartanburg High School one afternoon who said 7Reads was the reason he started reading for fun. We began a conversation about the book he had chosen to read, and he responded enthusiastically he had read The Schooling of Claybird Catts; he said it was the first full-length novel he had read. He had met the author, Janis Owens, and she inspired him. I will forever cherish this conversation and the knowledge that this young man enjoyed a powerful story about students who struggle in school and succeed.”
~Kathie Bennett - Kathie, along with Rodney Graves (then SHS Principal) co-founders of the program