May 10, 2013

Jessica Pope
Communications and Media Relations Coordinator

VSU’s "Dr. D." Needs More Readers for Hall of Fame

Voluntary reading involves personal choice, reading widely from a variety of sources, and choosing what one reads. Aliterates — people who have the ability to read but choose not to — miss just as much as those who cannot read at all. Individuals read to live life to its fullest, to earn a living, to understand what is going on in the world, and to benefit from the accumulated knowledge of civilization. Even the benefits of democracy, and the capacity to govern ourselves successfully, depend on reading. — American Association of School Librarians.

VALDOSTA — As of Friday, May 10, Dr. Gina Doepker, director of the Ruby R. Sullivan Literacy Center at Valdosta State University, has 8,659 names in her Dr. D., I READ! Hall of Fame. Her goal is have at least 10,000 names on the walls by the end of the month.

“I am promoting reading, any kind of reading, text messages, emails, blogs, Facebook posts, song lyrics, magazines, books, newspapers, etc.,” said the Department of Early Childhood and Special Education associate professor. “I want to show the children of the Sullivan Literacy Center that many people read for many different reasons.”

Doepker began collecting names in May 2012 and has participants from across the nation and around the world. Her father-in-law helped by collecting names while teaching in New Zealand and working on a project in China. 

The Dr. D. I READ! campaign is open to all ages. To sign up, Doepker only needs the interested person’s name and hometown and their commitment to make time to read for pleasure. That information can be submitted via email to

Every time someone commits to the Dr. D. I READ! campaign, Doepker writes that person’s name on a sticky note and places it on the walls in the I READ! Hall of Fame, which is located outside the Ruby R. Sullivan Literacy Center, on the first floor of the James L. and Dorothy H. Dewar College of Education. Scott Speed with the National Association for Stock Car Auto Racing (NASCAR) and Michael Leavine with the Automobile Racing Club of America (ARCA) are two celebrities who have made the commitment to read.

“Many of the children that we work with in the Sullivan Literacy Center are struggling, reluctant readers and writers who do not understand the importance of reading and how reading impacts our lives every day,” she said. “I want to show them in a massive way that reading is important and many people read for many different reasons. In today’s society, everything has to be big or super-sized, so I wanted to do something super-sized as well. The I READ! Hall of Fame is a super-sized representation of literally thousands of readers. It is my goal to get these children excited about reading and to become lifelong readers.”

“We read to learn,” she added. “We read to live. We should also live to read.”

The Ruby R. Sullivan Literacy Center’s mission is to be an integrated system of care for the children and families of Valdosta and surrounding areas with a focus on building children’s literacy skills, motivation, and confidence. The center now serves children in kindergarten through fifth grade, but programs are being developed for prekindergarten, middle school, and high school students, said Doepker.

The Ruby R. Sullivan Literacy Center offers several programs designed to help children in the elementary grades build literacy skills, gain confidence, and be more motivated to want to read for both pleasure and study:

• Literacy Education Assessment Program (LEAP): This is a literacy tutoring program that involves VSU pre-service teachers assessing the community children’s current literacy skills, developing specific literacy goals, providing one-on-one research-based literacy instruction and intervention, and monitoring the children’s literacy development progress. Students in LITR 4120: Literacy Assessment and Applications work with the children, gaining experience in assessing and planning appropriate literacy remediation. 

• Blazing Through Books Program: This feeder program for LEAP pairs VSU athletes and students with community children in one-on-one and small group literacy skill-building activities, such as reading, writing, listening, and speaking. Pairs of students from LITR 3110: Emergent Literacy read a book to the children as a group and then lead them through a fun, but educational, lesson related to the story. The purpose of this program is to get the children excited about reading, work on basic literacy skills, and expose the children to different genres.  

• Multidisciplinary Child Advocacy Team (M-CAT): Through this program, any and all departments at VSU, as well as interested community organizations, provide identified services for the community children and families, such as comprehensive assessments, health screenings, family support and therapy, content area tutoring, shadowing opportunities, adult literacy, and much more.

• Dear Blazer Buddy: This is a pen pal program that pairs community children with VSU athletes and students. It is designed to get the children involved in a reading and writing activity that is fun and motivating.

• Blazer Books Television Series: This is a developing program that gives all VSU faculty, staff, and students, as well as area public schools, organizations, and others the opportunity to read and/or recommend their favorite childhood book on camera.

• Reading Enrichment Club (REC) Center: This group was formed for those children who exceed their grade-level reading proficiencies but still want to participate in the program. It focuses on helping them extend their literacy competencies by providing more challenging reading and writing experiences. Participants have worked their way through the Blazing Through Books Program and the Literacy Education Assessment Program (LEAP).

VSU has had some sort of literacy outreach initiative since 1989.

The Ruby R. Sullivan Literacy Center is located on the first floor of the James L. and Dorothy H. Dewar College of Education. The fall program will begin Sept. 9.

According to the National Information Center for Children and Youth with Disabilities, approximately 10 million children in the United States have difficulty reading. Of these children, 10 to 15 percent eventually drop out of high school and only two percent complete a four-year college degree.

Contact Dr. Gina Doepker at (229) 333-5625 or for more information.