These small, but mighty students of Tiny Creators Learning Center represented the 4-K programs in South Carolina who are eager to learn how to read before kindergarten.

Over 2,500 students, teachers, and parents came to participate in Read-In 2018 at the State House on Thursday. The crowd cheered and sang as they celebrated their love for reading.

Teachers encouraged their students to march in the Read-in 2018 parade not only to motivate the younger students, but also to show them the importance of reading in their lives.

During his speech, Rep. Jerry Govan, D-Orangeburg, announced that Gov. Henry McMaster signed the First-Steps Bill, which benefits literacy programs for pre-kindergarten students in South Carolina.

Valerie Byrd-Fort, emcee for Read-In 2018, came dressed as a “library goddess.” Her wings were made from pages of old books and magazines.

About 2,500 students and teachers gathered for Read-In 2018 at the South Carolina State House early this month, with the Irmo High School marching band ringing in the festivities with upbeat music and parents and children celebrating the virtues of reading good books.

Read-In is an event held by the South Carolina State Library and the South Carolina Association of School Librarians.

Elementary and middle schools all across South Carolina marched in a parade beginning at the State Library and ending on the State House grounds where the students crowded the front steps and front lawn. The students used their presence to be a voice for South Carolina students, reminding legislators in the State House of the importance of investing in education.

“The reason we come to the State House is because there are important people inside… and we want them to know that reading is important,” said Valerie Byrd Fort, a former school librarian in Lexington and Richland counties, who served as master of ceremonies for Read-In 2018.

“When they (lawmakers) are working on their budgets we want them to think about putting money towards reading,” Fort said. She pointed out that South Carolina has a “definite need for literacy help,” explaining that events like this encourage students to be motivated about reading.

South Carolina has struggled with maintaining high education rankings for years, and focusing on literacy is a key aspect that could bring S.C. up to par with the rest of the nation.

Rep. Jerry Govan, Jr., D-Orangeburg, reminded the students of the importance of readings, saying “the future of South Carolina is you.”

During his speech, Govan made the announcement that Gov. Henry McMaster signed the First Steps Bill, which benefits 4-K programs in South Carolina. First-Steps prepares pre-kindergarten students for elementary school, through reading development programs.

The students, teachers, and parents who filled the State House grounds were pleased to hear the news. The crowd cheered “4-K rocks”as they wrapped up the celebration with news of the bill getting signed.

 Leesa Aiken, director of the S.C. State Library, said the purpose of the event is to “celebrate the impact reading has,” and “simply to foster reading and the diversity of it.” Aiken is an advocate for reading and believes that “reading is accessible to everyone” in South Carolina. She recounted reading anything as a child, even the back of cereal boxes.

“Today we’re celebrating reading – and kids who read, succeed,”said Aiken at the closing of the ceremony.