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The University of South Carolina and Clemson University rivalry has a new twist this year as students compete to raise money for books to give entering kindergartners in the state’s poorest schools.

The competition, sponsored at USC by the Teaching Fellows and at Clemson by Kappa Kappa Gama sorority, will start at midnight on Monday, Nov. 18 and end at midnight on Tuesday, Nov. 26 — just before Thanksgiving and that weekend’s big Clemson Tigers-South Carolina Gamecocks football game.

South Carolina Future Minds, the 501(c)3 that organizes private support for the state’s public schools, is handling the donations and executing the program.

Studies have found that:

n The home environment — specifically the availability of reading material — is a stronger predictor of later academic achievement than socioeconomic status.

n On average, children in economically depressed communities have 0-2 age-appropriate books in their homes.

n Sixty-one percent of low-income families’ homes have no children’s books at all.

n The probability that a child will remain a poor reader at the end of the fourth grade if the child is a poor reader at the end of first grade is almost 90 percent.

“A lot of our children come to school without ever having seen a book,” said Dr. Rose Wilder, Clarendon School District One superintendent, current South Carolina Superintendent of the Year and member of the S.C. Future Minds board. “When a child comes to school without that exposure … most of the time that child will be behind for life.”

The program is a contest at two levels: student organizations will compete within each university to raise the most money; and the universities themselves will compete against each other.

“My First Library” allows students, alumni and fans of the two schools to donate money to purchase the books and have bragging rights off the field.

Fans of the two schools can donate money by going to and clicking on the “My First Library” icon.

The “winner” will be the school and organization that raises the most money. But the real winners will be the thousands of South Carolina youngsters who will get the books purchased by the money raised.

Once the money is raised, S.C. Future Minds will organize the creation of a boxed set of age-appropriate books to be given to entering 5-year-old kindergartners at the state’s poorest schools, as determined by the S.C. Education Oversight Committee.

Together, the USC and Clemson systems account for nearly a third of all degrees awarded each year from private and public colleges and universities in South Carolina. About two-thirds of each school’s student body comes from South Carolina. South Carolina’s public schools educate about 700,000 children annually, about 90 percent of all school-age children. Clearly, the futures of the universities and the state of South Carolina are linked to the quality of the graduates from the public school system.


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