Reading to kids at Bells Elementary
by The Press and Standard | March 2, 2019 5:00 pm
Last Updated: February 26, 2019 at 3:01 pm
Bells Elementary School’s 12th annual African American Read-In was held Friday Feb. 15.
Twelve years ago, Bells Elementary School’s African American Read-In was introduced by former Literacy Coach Peggy O’Banner. When she left Colleton County, Dinah Bryant took the read-in to another level and is the one responsible for the widely talked about luncheon held at Bells each year. Bryant, before moving to Hendersonville Elementary, would invite community members to come read to the children. The lunch spread could be compared to any large family’s Thanksgiving feast.
Bells was very nervous about the turnout for the 2019 African American Read In, because neither O’Banner or Bryant was at the school anymore. Talika Mock, school secretary/bookkeeper/parent facilitator, reached out to the school, the district, the community and former volunteers for help so that the legacy of literature and African American history would continue at Bells. “The faculty and staff pulled together like the family we are, and invited as many people as we could to come read to the children. The main office staff is responsible for organizing the food portion; we work as a team. The entire school participated in the luncheon by bringing various traditional southern dishes. We even reached out to Mrs. Bryant, who attended and was honored. We intend to honor Mrs. O’Banner next year, because none of this would have happened without her starting it,” said Mock.
The read-in brought in over 40 volunteers to read to all grade levels and all classes; no one was left out. Some volunteers brought their own books and poems to read, and others visited the library to check out a book to read to the students. Books were hand selected by the Librarian Bonita Cheney and current Literacy Coach Florrie Edwards.
Bells Principal Amy Liebenrood welcomed guests/volunteers as they came in. Some volunteers included: School Board members Charles Murdaugh and Sharon Witkins; both CCSD Assistant Superintendents Dr. J. White and Cliff Warren (Dr. Foster was out of town); former Bells Principal Dr. Jenkins; SRO Officers S. Thomason and J. Brown; Colleton County Memorial Library Children’s Librarian and author Shelia Keaise; Judge Sophia Henderson; Forest Hills Elementary School Counselor Brittany Shider; Colleton County Sheriff’s Officers Sgt. Rice, Stephanie Crosby and Shalane Lowes; PRTC Michelle Strickland; members of sororities Zeta Phi Beta, Delta Kappa Gamma and Alpha Kappa Gamma; former Bells teachers; representatives from DJJ; bus drivers of Bells; parents of students and teachers; and the youngest readers from North Walterboro Christian Academy, Anise Clark (age 14) and CJ Mock (age 11).
“Not only did the children enjoy the massive number of visitors reading interesting fiction and nonfiction literature by African American authors, but the faculty, staff, and our visitors all enjoyed a day of fellowship while promoting literacy. All of the hugs, the pictures and the love of community was evident at Bells Friday, and it gives me great joy knowing that Bells is a nationally-recognized host for the read-in,” said Mock.
“We hope to encourage our students to become better readers and writers by hosting this event each year. In addition, we also want students of all ethnic groups to see themselves being represented in books,” said Florrie Edwards, reading coach.
Community members who would like to volunteer for next year’s event are asked to email: firstname.lastname@example.org to be added to the African American Read-In Directory.