Team Members: Mark Cothran, Ernest Crosby, Ellen Foody, Hank Hyatt, Herb Johnson, Susan Lill, Jim McCubbin, Gregory Rusnak, Andrea Ulmer, George West

The Riley Factor mission is to enhance the academic success of our children and the economic success of our community by promoting early literacy. We developed the READ Babies Project to emphasize our theme, “Read Early and Develop (Successful) Babies”.

Reading to infants and very young children has several important benefits. Early reading helps develop important language skills by preparing the infant brain for readiness to read. Reading to very young children is an important social interaction and opportunity for bonding with parents, grandparents and other caregivers. Early experience with positive social relationships will help build relationships with teachers and mentors later in life.

Lack of reading skills is a significant problem in South Carolina. Forty percent of our students drop out of school, and 75% of dropouts have reading problems. Half of young criminals have reading problems and 26% of Greenville’s children are not ready for 1st grade reading. Reading problems are greatest in low income families, creating a vicious cycle of perpetuating poverty.

The READ Babies Project promotes early literacy in Upstate South Carolina in three ways: 1) identify and organize community partners with a common interest in early literacy, 2) educate parents of young children with a focus on at-risk families, and 3) synergize and direct community resources to develop a sustainable early literacy effort.

The primary partner for this project is Lapsits for Early Literacy, a nonprofit organization that guides under-served parents and caregivers to create a love of books and develop readiness for reading in very young children. Initially, READ Babies is providing marketing and volunteer support for an Early Reading Information Fair at the Greenville University Center. The Fair provides education to promote early reading while giving out baby clothes donated by Gerber. We are also developing funding sources to enhance sustainability of the Early Reading Information Fair and the mission of Lapsits. The long term goal of READ Babies is to strengthen Upstate South Carolina by enhancing the success of our children in school and in life.