Donated children's books

A collection of donations made for the book drive sit on a table at the Cynthia Graham Hurd St. Andrews Library. The organizers have a goal of collecting 15,000 books this year. Jesse Naranjo/Staff

Two organizations will partner for a third year for a book drive in honor of a devoted community member and librarian who was one of nine people killed in the 2015 Emanuel AME Church shooting.

Cynthia Graham Hurd worked with the Charleston County Public Library for 31 years and managed two branches, including the St. Andrews Regional Library, which has since been renamed in her honor.

The foundation established in her honor is collaborating with nonprofit Reading Partners for the annual month-long initiative in July to collect books appropriate for readers in kindergarten through the fifth grade.

The Cynthia Graham Hurd Foundation, led by her brother Malcolm Graham, was created to promote two goals of the beloved librarian and public servant: literacy and civic engagement in all ages.

Graham told The Post and Courier the foundation is expecting large growth in the near future.

"Last year, we stood here and we said we wanted 7,000 books, and we got over 11,000 books," Graham said. "So this year we're trying to get 15,000 books."

In addition to the book donations, Reading Partners is looking for 1,000 volunteers to help tutor low-income students in the area.

The program through Reading Partners, a national organization, allows the children they work with to develop their own personal libraries by hand-picking the books the organizations make available. The group has doubled the number of students in South Carolina it serves to 800 in the four years it's been in the state.

Reading Partners South Carolina Board Chairman Richard Star said allowing young learners to take books home and practice their skills by reading to siblings improves the culture of literacy.

"Unfortunately, 80 percent of low-income South Carolina children are reading below the grade level," Star said. "That's where reading partners comes in. We're committed to reducing that number by engaging in one-on-one tutoring across Charleston County and Berkeley County."

Books can be fiction or nonfiction and in new or gently used condition but need to be appropriate for children. They can be dropped off at any Charleston County library or at Mellow Mushroom restaurants. 

Volunteers don't need to have any formal qualifications and anyone who is interested in engaging young students one-on-one can become qualified through Reading Partners' training curriculum, Star said.

"We have tutors who are high school students, we have tutors who are Ph.D.s," Star said.

Reach Jesse Naranjo at 843-937-5764. Follow him on Twitter @jesselnaranjo.