It’s new! It’s weird! And it is starting its journey in South Dakota.W
elcome to the world of Porter the Hoarder, a series of “look-and-find” books that gets Bigs (parents, teachers, siblings and adults at home) in the habit of reading with Littles (elementary-aged students). Though the book is essentially a game of searching though Porter’s messy room to find her bizarre collection of objects (such as 10 snotty handkerchiefs, 6 lightning-fried lizards and 2 moldy sandwiches), what is truly happening when Bigs read with Littles is something far greater than the sum of Porter’s piles of junk.
The United Way of the Black Hills and their initiative Black Hills Reads has created a reading program around the first book in the series, Porter the Hoarder and the Ransacked Room. It is a program that is specifically designed to address issues related to parent engagement and early childhood education.
“The overall goal of Black Hills Reads is to help children reach reading proficiency by 3rd grade. We have three main pillars of work to help us do that, school readiness, school attendance, and summer learning loss, with a focus on parent engagement in every aspect of our work,” explained Kayla Klein, Director of Black Hills Reads. “Porter offered us a unique opportunity to provide a tool to teachers in the classroom, a gift to students, and a way to help parents engage with their children and literary prowess.”
Over 1,500 books will be given free of charge to 1st grade students, teachers and libraries in participating Black Hills area schools ranging as far north as Belle Fourche to as far south as Edgemont. Teacher resources and “Parent Homework” that turns a quick read into a long-term reading habit will also accompany each book.
“It is an honor to be working with the United Way’s Black Hills Reads initiative toward the goal of helping kids in early education,” said Sean Covel, producer of Napoleon Dynamite, a South Dakota native, and the author of the new series.
The books are all about Porter. She is an obnoxious little girl who is walking through early elementary life with children across the country. From cleaning her disastrous room to going to her first doctor’s appointment, Porter is sharing her experiences with other kids so they know what to expect when they have to go through life themselves.
Best part about the book? There isn’t just one parents will need to read night after night. There are 64 books in the series — the first being Porter the Hoarder and the Ransacked Room. The next best part may be that the Porter the Hoarder series is created by, illustrated by, written by and designed by a team who calls South Dakota home.
“We wanted to do something different with Porter,” said Rebecca Swift, the book’s creator, illustrator, and South Dakota mom of three. “We wanted something that was new and interactive for kids.”
And this book does just that.
As teachers and parents read the book together, children identify the action Porter should take. For example, finding hidden garbage in Porter’s room, page by page, and “helping” her clean it up by deciding what stays and what has to go.
“They were so excited when they came back [to class] and they couldn’t wait to read the next one in the series,” said Brittany Covel, a Kindergarten teacher at Sturgis Elementary School who participated in a test of the series. “It’s giving them a purpose to read and then apply what they’ve learned.”
The Porter series team is excited to be bringing out a book that has been developed with child psychologists and elementary school professionals to be something that is even greater than the book – it’s a tool.
“It’s easy for kids to see how Porter is feeling through this whole process of cleaning her room,” said Brittany. “They know and understand why she’s upset – and it’s a great way to teach empathy. And that is something that’s so hard for teachers to teach young students. Empathy. But the books do that.”
South Dakota is getting to be a part of the Porter series before the book is live around the country. To follow the launch of Porter the Hoarder in the Black Hills, visit Black Hills Reads on Facebook.
illustrations by Rebecca Swift