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Olivia's Story




Imagine the despair of a child who believes that he or she cannot read. For too many young students, this untrue belief is their reality.


Dorothy Thornal, an AmeriCorps member working in Black River United Way’s literacy tutoring program, is very familiar with children who lack confidence in their reading ability. Children, like Olivia*.


“Olivia came to me this year with no self-confidence. Every time we read, looked at sight words, or learned something new, she would say she couldn’t do that. She thought all the other students knew more than she did... She would put her head on the table and cry”


Many students like Olivia require extra support in reading, with roughly two-thirds of students in our community reading below grade level according to the South Carolina Department of Education. Through Black River United Way’s Mission: Read initiative, children like Olivia are able to receive that extra support in reading from trained volunteer literacy specialists like Miss Dorothy. In partnership with our local schools, Black River United Way empowers volunteers to help students improve literacy skills such as fluency, vocabulary, and reading comprehension. Beyond helping children overcome early-grade reading struggles, this support can increase a child’s confidence in literacy, helping them challenge untrue beliefs about their own reading ability.


For Olivia, Miss Dorothy had a big role in helping her challenge the belief that she couldn’t read. “We all encouraged her. She began to focus on what she could do and not what she couldn’t do.” Since Miss Dorothy began working with Olivia, not only have her skills improved, but most of all her confidence has increased. “She is doing a great job sounding out words and her reading skills have greatly improved. She is enjoying her time with me. She wrote me a nice letter to Santa and she illustrated it very well. But, most importantly, she was proud of her work.”


At Black River United Way, we believe that communities thrive only when all their children are thriving. With the skills, support, and confidence she needs, 1st grader Olivia is well on her way to becoming a thriving reader. Stories like Olivia’s illustrate the importance of our bold goal for early childhood success - that by 2040, 90% of students in Georgetown and Williamsburg Counties will read on or above grade level by the end of the third grade.


With your support, Black River United Way is moving our community towards this goal one child, and one story at a time. Through your partnership, and in collaboration with the United Way of Horry County and our shared agenda, the Waccamaw Region for Childhood Success, BRUW is leading the charge to meet early childhood needs - with strategies to close the reading gap, increase family engagement, eliminate summer learning loss, and improve kindergarten readiness. 


Together, we can ensure that all children have the skills, support, and confidence to achieve early childhood success, empowering the next generation to thrive.


To learn more about how you can help support the literacy development of children like Olivia, click here or call (843) 546-6317 ext 4.


*Name and likeness changed for confidentiality*


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