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Summer 2022 READCamp MVP Celebration

September 27, 2022

Listen to 99.5 FM, WRNN's interview with Malcolm Mitchell (recorded earlier in the day on Tuesday, Sept. 27).

Conway, South Carolina - On Tuesday, Sept. 27, almost 1,000 Horry County kindergarten through fifth-grade students gathered in Coastal Carolina University’s HTC Center to celebrate their status as MVPs in this summer’s READCamp. READCamp is a nationwide virtual summer camp for students in Pre-K through eighth grade to practice reading with “Head Coach” Malcolm Mitchell—Super Bowl Champion, children’s book author, and youth literacy crusader.

The students earned MVP status by reading at least 12 books as part of the camp, though several students read far more. Carlee Ventura, a third-grader at Socastee Elementary, read the most, with a total of 79 books. Renley Graham, a third-grader at Waterway Elementary, came in second with 69 books. Two students tied for third place with 64 books: twins Jersey and Jinjer Fehlman, both fourth-graders at River Oaks Elementary. Carlee Ventura and Renley Graham were also the top two participants overall in this year’s READCamp, out of over 33,000 students nationally.

READCamp is led by Malcolm Mitchell and his Share the Magic Foundation. Mitchell created this foundation to encourage literacy among youth after he made it to college with only a middle-school-level reading ability.

Many people know Mitchell as a member of the 2017 Patriots—that year’s NFL Super Bowl winners. Others may know him from his time as one of the top-ranked players on the University of Georgia’s football team from 2011 to 2015. However, Mitchell says that his success in football came naturally; he had to work hard to develop his reading ability, so he’s far prouder of that. He has even gone on record saying one of the accomplishments he’s proudest of in life is reading the entire Hunger Games series in just a few days.

Established in 2016, Mitchell’s Share the Magic Foundation hosts several events every year that encourage children to read. These include READBowl, READMarathon, and READCamp, which is the event that HCS students participated in this past summer.

Additionally, Mitchell’s organization offers in-school programs, including the signature “Reading Rally,” where Mitchell visits a school to hold a special big-game style pep rally for reading, and where each student receives a book to take home. You can find out more about the foundation’s programs at their website.

The celebration held on Tuesday for HCS READCamp MVP students was part of an ongoing success story of literacy in Horry County Schools. In January of 2020, teacher Caroline Rogers introduced her reading classes at Ocean Drive Elementary School to Mitchell’s READBowl program—a four-week program that has students track the number of minutes they spend reading each week. At the end of the four weeks, Rogers held a Super Bowl-themed celebration for her students and posted about it on social media. Malcolm’s Share the Magic Foundation saw Rogers’ posts and reached out to her for feedback about their program, which led to a lasting relationship between Rogers and the foundation. She became a member of the foundation’s advisory board, and Share the Magic named Rogers the foundation’s Educator of the Year in February 2022.

Rogers continues to use the various programs held by Share the Magic. Her students were the READMarathon national champions in 2020 and the READBowl state champions in 2021. Ocean Drive Elementary School’s principal, Renea Fowler, saw the students’ success and has used READCamp as the school’s summer reading program for the past three summers.

When Rogers found out that the district wanted to use READCamp for all its kindergarten through fourth graders, she was thrilled, saying, “I’m so excited to share with everyone what [the program] is and what I do in my classroom.” Rogers believes that, while the program is certainly fun for the students, it helps create stronger relationships and community. It also has a significant impact on students’ reading abilities. “It works,” she says. “We have the statistics and the data to back it up.” The program’s success at the elementary level now has HCS middle schools getting in the game for the 2022-2023 school year.

Elementary schools around the district incentivized students to participate by offering rewards such as extra PE periods and parties with pizza, ice cream, popsicles, and/or inflatables, and these seem to have done the trick. Over 2,200 HCS kindergarten through fourth-grade students read at least one book as part of the program this summer, while over 1,600 (74% of participants) read at least eight books, earning them the title of “READCamp Champion.” The almost 1,000 student participants at Tuesday’s ceremony—roughly 47% of the total students participating in the program—were “READCamp MVPs,” meaning they read at least 12 books over the summer. All told, the MVP students read a total of almost 10,000 books this summer, and all participants combined read a total of more than 15,000 books.

While schools and individuals across America participated in this summer’s READCamp, HCS logged more books and had more participation than any other district in the history of Mitchell’s foundation, and more than half of the foundation’s top 10 readers in the US this summer were from HCS. This has led Mitchell to come and celebrate our students at the event on Tuesday.

"I'm so proud of all the students in Horry County who read so many books this summer," said Mitchell. "I am also grateful to the outstanding teachers and families who helped drive the momentum among the kids and kept them motivated to read. I am further honored to be teaming up with HCS to create champion readers all year long during the 2022-2023 school year and beyond."