August 19, 2013

Jessica Pope
Communications and Media Relations Coordinator

VSU’s Dr. D., I READ! Campaign Surpasses Goal

VALDOSTA — In May of 2012, Valdosta State University’s Ruby R. Sullivan Literacy Center kicked off a campaign to inspire children of all ages to want to read for fun.

Fifteen months later, the Ruby R. Sullivan Literacy Center reached its goal. In fact, it surpassed its goal by more than 5 percent, placing the names of 10,500-plus devoted readers from around the world on the walls of the Dr. D., I READ! Hall of Fame.

“This was a massive goal,” said Dr. Gina M. Doepker, an associate professor in VSU’s Department of Early Childhood and Special Education who also serves as director of the Ruby R. Sullivan Literacy Center, “and after I started it, I was worried that it was way too ambitious, but I never gave up. I knew that there were at least 10,000 readers out there who could help me show the children [who receive services at the center] that many people read for many different reasons.”

The Dr. D., I READ! Hall of Fame is located just outside the Ruby R. Sullivan Literacy Center, on the first floor of the James L. and Dorothy H. Dewar College of Education and Human Services. Names were carefully handwritten on brightly colored sticky squares and placed along the walls.

Scott Speed with the National Association for Stock Car Auto Racing (NASCAR) and Michael Leavine with the Automobile Racing Club of America (ARCA) committed to reading and added their names to the Dr. D., I READ! Hall of Fame, along with boys and girls, men and women from as far away as New Zealand and China and as close as South Georgia.   

“It almost looks like a beautiful abstract piece of artwork,” Doepker shared. “I am actually thinking about ways to preserve it in the long term.” 

“It makes me smile to see people stop and look at all of the names and then turn around and add their own name to the list,” she continued. “The children even get excited to see all of the names, especially their own name.”

Throughout the Dr. D., I READ! campaign, Doepker stressed that reading for fun was as important as reading for information. She encouraged the children served by the Ruby R. Sullivan Literacy Center, the surrounding community, and even the world to spend time every day reading something — anything — from text messages and emails to blogs and Facebook posts to favorite song lyrics and recipes to books, newspapers, and magazines.

“Many of the children that we work with in the [Ruby R.] 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 explained. “I want to show them in a massive way that reading is important and that 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.”  

If someone wishes to be included in the Dr. D., I READ! Hall of Fame, Doepker said it is never too late to make the commitment to read to learn, to live, and for fun. All she needs is the person’s name and hometown, which can be submitted to her via email to

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 2 percent complete a four-year college degree.

Contact Dr. Gina Doepker at (229) 333-5625 or or email the Ruby R. Sullivan Literacy Center at for more information.

Valdosta State University’s 2013-2019 Strategic Plan represents a renewal of energy and commitment to the foundational principles for comprehensive institutions.

Implementation of the plan’s five goals, along with their accompanying objectives and strategies, supports VSU’s institutional mission and the University System of Georgia’s mission for comprehensive universities.

The story above demonstrates VSU's commitment to meeting the following goals:

Goal 1: Recruit, retain, and graduate a quality, diverse student population and prepare students for roles as leaders in a global society.

Goal 3: Promote student, employee, alumni, retiree, and community engagement in our mission.

Goal 4: Foster an environment of creativity and scholarship.

Goal 5: Develop and enhance Valdosta State’s human and physical resources.

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