read across americaThe University of South Carolina Beaufort is inviting parents and their children ages pre-kindergarten through the third grade to join them March 1 for Read Across America Day, a celebration of the joys of reading, from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. on the Beaufort Campus.The event, to be held on the lawn in front of the USCB Center for the Arts on Carteret Street, will feature readings from children’s books in a variety of languages. Local authors will be on hand to read their books. There will also be games and activities for children, a bouncy house, refreshments and free books to take home. The Cat in the Hat will be making a special appearance, and someone wearing a tutu will be reading “Pinkalicious.” The event is free.  Dr. Marlena Smalls, actor, speaker, singer, historian and more, will read to children. Dr. Smalls is known as “The Voice of Gullah.” Andrea Studenc, the children’s book author and illustrator from Hilton Head Island, will read her book, “Hair Brain Jane.” Studenc has supported the event by participating ever since the first Read Across America Day at USCB in 2012. New authors supporting the event this year include Sheri Levy, a young adult author who tells the story of an autistic child whose dog is being trained to assist her, and Elizabeth Belenchia, whose book “My Walk to the Water” explores the world of sea turtles. USCB’s Read Across America Day activities were organized by the Education Club in conjunction with the United Way of the Lowcountry, Americorp, and the Beaufort and Hardeeville libraries. For Spanish speakers, Rena Lewis-Kratky, M.Ed., instructor of Spanish at the university, will read books in Spanish as will students from the Gamma Beta Phi and Foreign Language honors societies. USCB’s Read Across America Day is expected to draw more than 200 children from many Lowcountry schools: the Port Royal Elementary School Pre-K class, the M.C. Riley second grade, the Beaufort Elementary School Pre-K class, the Royal Live Oaks Academy of the Arts & Sciences Charter School in Hardeeville, and more. Many of the daycare centers and early childhood development centers in the Lowcountry are expected to attend and bring the children in their care. Parents and homeschoolers will bring their children. 

So many children turned out for last year’s event that neighbors from the Old Point neighborhood volunteered to help on the spur of the moment. Beaufort Mayor Billy Keyserling even mentioned the event in an email to the community.“It is so important to imbue a love of reading in children at an early age,” says Renarta Tompkins, Ph.D., associate professor of education at USCB. “This is when they’re most impressionable. The reading skills they acquire in their formative years will influence the course of their entire lives.” The Cracked Egg in Port Royal will provide refreshments. In the event of rain, the event will be moved to the Center for the Arts.