A love of children and a love of reading are the most important attributes for volunteer tutors in the Freedom Readers Inc. programs in Conway, Georgetown and Myrtle Beach.
Tracy Bailey, executive director of the nonprofit, adds that love of children includes an understanding that “they are rambunctious, they are energetic – and wonderful.” The point is, successful tutors “can put the needs of the child first.” Freedom Readers spring sessions began this week in two Conway locations, the Boys & Girls Club in Myrtle Beach and in Georgetown.
The Georgetown Freedom Readers program began only last October and is affiliated with Georgetown Outreach Ministries Inc. Rosalind Coleman, the elder of the AME church Georgetown district, is president of GOMI. Georgetown young scholars, as Freedom Readers children are termed, meet Tuesdays at the Arnett AME Church. Bailey says the response in Georgetown has been exceptional with 25 tutors, including substitutes. She encourages anyone who is interested to volunteer, as a second day of tutoring is being considered in Georgetown.
The need for volunteers is at the Conway sites at Darden Terrace and Huckabee Heights, both public housing complexes. They are the original sites for Freedom Readers. At Huckabee, 16 children (ages 5 to 11) were registered for the spring session and on the first meeting day, four more showed up with registration forms. That puts Huckabee at the maximum of 20 young scholars. First, there are space and noise considerations, Bailey says about the limit. Also, “we want to pull together a group of young scholars that stay together and support each other in their academic endeavors.” Put another way, it’s positive peer pressure.
She also needs tutors at Darden Terrace and particularly at the Boys & Girls Club in Myrtle Beach. All Freedom Readers sites have waiting lists of children “walking by and looking in and wanting to be part of the program.” Helping a child improve her reading skills is a wonderfully fulfilling way to volunteer. If you have that love of children and reading, contact Bailey and become one of the 150 volunteers in the program since its inception.
Freedom Readers distributed 1,400 books in 2012. They come from a variety of sources including First Book of Horry County, book drives and purchases from donations. Besides the Boys & Girls Club of the Grand Strand and GOMI in Georgetown, community partners are the United Way of Horry County and Christ Community Church. Freedom Readers Inc., has an annual operating budget of about $30,000.
Bailey is working on her dissertation for a doctorate in language and literacy at the University of South Carolina. Balancing her doctorate work and a brand new nonprofit has been challenging, but “the two inform one another.” The dissertation is on an environment of excellence for academic success in lower income families. She has a master’s in secondary education from Coastal Carolina University and taught six years at Socastee High School.