`Raising a Reader’ in Horry County First Steps family program

By The Editorial Board

Red cloth bags with quality books for young children are a big hit in the first month of “Raising a Reader,” an initiative of Horry County First Steps. The book bags are rotated to homes in the Parents As Teachers program. A typical red bag for three- and four-year-olds included “Sheep in a Shop,” “Red-Eyed Tree Frog,” “Five Little Monkeys” and “Airport.”

“We are so excited to share this program with our families,” says Amy Breault, executive director of Horry County First Steps. “One little boy wanted to keep a book, and the educator had to convince him he would see the book again.” (And, unofficially, the boy ultimately will have his own copy of the book he liked so much.)

“We’ve only been doing the program a month and everything we wanted to achieve is happening.” Parents and grandparents, as well as youngsters, are already looking forward to the books. One grandmother reported she especially enjoyed a story about a hungry caterpillar. Another family liked “Subway Ride.”

“We’re getting positive feedback from families,” Breault said.

Parents as Teachers is one of First Steps’ major programs. Educators visit homes “to help parents be successful as their child’s first teacher.” Currently, two parent educators are serving about 35 families. Each educator can have a maximum of 20 families. Breault hopes to add a third educator, which will enable up to 60 families to be in Parents As Teachers. For families in the free program, educators visit twice a month, until the child is 5 years old.

Horry County First Steps is a public-private partnership that is part of S.C. First Steps, set up by the 1999 legislation, First Steps to School Readiness. Every S.C. county has a First Steps partnership, with autonomy to fashion programs according to the community’s needs. “We report results to the S.C. office,” Breault says.

Horry County First Steps is a blend, as Breault puts it, a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization that can do grants and hold fundraisers in addition to receiving state revenue. The total budget is $580,000. Breault says “we’re not there yet” in developing fundraising. United Way of Horry County designated First Steps to receive $10,000 for “Raising A Reader” and for another book program, “meet Me at Your Library” in spring 2017. “My Library Book Bag” is blue.

“We focus on children 0-5 years old, we try to engage low-income, at-risk families.” In addition to Parents As Teachers, Horry County First Steps has a staff educator who works with teachers in six child development centers in communities, including Conway, Longs and Surfside Beach.

Breault, raised in Horry County and a graduate of Coastal Carolina University, has been executive director of Horry County First Steps for 13 years. She works closely with Georgetown County First Steps executive director Carol Daly and other county organizations in the region.

“We’re happy to have phone calls or visits” to the Conway office from people interested in learning more about Horry County First Steps.

First Steps

Contact Info

Parents interested in Horry County First Steps may phone or visit the office in Conway. The 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization welcomes financial contributions. Mail checks to:

Horry County First Steps

900-C Main St., Suite A

Conway, SC 29526

Phone | 843-488-3336

Hours | Monday-Thursday, 8 a.m.-5 p.m.

Friday 8 a.m. - 1:30 p.m.