River Read 2014 Receives Substantial Support from the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation

CONWAY, SC – The second-annual River Read Festival will be bigger and better than ever this year, thanks in large part to the generous support of the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation and its Knight Community Foundations Program, which houses a fund at Waccamaw Community Foundation.

“We are so honored that The Knight Foundation has chosen to support River Read,” said River Read Founder Barbara Blain-Olds. “The foundation seeks to foster informed and engaged communities by supporting programs that bring people together through technology, events, the arts, media and development. River Read aligns directly with these goals, in that we take a unique approach to building community engagement by providing a festival that celebrates reading – a skill that is so important to building strong futures for us all.”  

In partnership with Waccamaw Community Foundation, River Read applied for grant funding from the Knight Community Foundations Program to enable the festival to create greater connections among different audiences throughout the Grand Strand and promote the use of technology for an involved community. At the heart of this proposal was a focus on building an integrated communication program that would enable River Read to create interaction among people through online channels in the weeks leading up to the event, as well as increase attendance  at the festival on April 12.   

Plans to more deeply ingrain River Read as a part of the fabric of Horry County and create more lasting, meaningful engagement among members of the community have been in development since August 2013. Among the new programs:

  • An expanded Poetry Slam that has connected high school students from different schools with Coastal Carolina University students who are experienced with slam poetry: This mentoring relationship helped prepare the contest entrants to perform their poems in an open-mic-style slam at the CCU Student Center, among a small audience. Videos of their performances were then placed on YouTube for community viewing and voting through the site’s “like” function. Since their initial posting on March 27, the videos have been viewed more than 3,000 times, liked by hundreds and commented upon by many. The three students whose videos receive the most likes will perform at River Read to compete for first-place honors.
  • An essay contest for children in grades two-through-five: Teachers in all Horry County schools were invited to have their students enter the first-ever River Read essay contest. Many incorporated the contest into their in-class writing curriculum, and as a result, more than 200 essays were submitted.
  • A special River Read School designation: River Read created a special award for the schools that had the most participation in the Poetry Slam and Essay Contest. At River Read 2014 on April 12, Conway’s Kingston Elementary School, which  submitted 173 essays, and North Myrtle Beach High School, which had seven students enter the Poetry Slam, will be named as Official River Read Schools and be awarded a special plaque for their commitment to fostering literacy.  

The funding provided by The Knight Foundation has enabled these new programs to be implemented and multiple generations have been engaged with the ideas embodied by River Read for weeks and months outside of the actual event.

“My hope is that by enabling River Read to reach more people in our community and have a more lasting impact throughout the coming year, we are fulfilling the The Knight Foundation’s vision of foster engagement among those in the our area through technology and creative ideas,” Blain-Olds said.

River Read is a nonprofit community festival, which would not be possible without the dedicated individuals, volunteers, community organizations and businesses who have worked together to bring this event to life. Special thanks to personal contributors to River Read, as well as our business sponsors: Waccamaw Community Foundation, the City of Conway, Coast RTA, WBTW News 13, Sonic America’s Drive In Star 92.1 FM, Social Suite Creative, Elite Talent and Event Management Services, Mother Goose Children's & Maternity Resale Store, The Jackson Companies, Franklin Sanders Allstate, Wells Fargo, Conway National Bank, Woodmen Of The World, Books-a-Million and Design the Sign.

For more information about River Read, visit our Website at http://riverread.org/ or contact Barbara Blain-Olds at info@riverread.org.

About River Read:

River Read is a nonprofit community festival. Its goal is to celebrate reading in Horry County, and the City of Conway as “The City that Reads.” River Read was created in response to a Municipal Association of South Carolina challenge to identify a unique feature of one’s city, and utilize it to instill pride and a sense of community in its residents. Councilwoman Barbara Blain-Olds heard this call and drew upon her staunch support of promoting literacy in her community, a personal love of reading and the universal appeal it has for people to create this unique festival that brings all of our stories together in celebration of reading.

About the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation

The John S. and James L. Knight Foundation supports transformational ideas that promote quality journalism, advance media innovation, engage communities and foster the arts. The foundation believes that democracy thrives when people and communities are informed and engaged. For more, visit KnightFoundation.org.

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