Columbia, SC (AP) - Wearing a feathered mask, colorful coat, or fringed cape, Helen Fellers is no ordinary rooster.
With a Southern drawl and dramatic flair, this 79-year book lover uses YouTube to deliver her three-minute, twice-monthly book recommendations for children, teachers, and librarians.
Fellers is always accompanied by one or more of her beloved collection of rooster statues and calls herself the "Reading Rooster."
After she introduces herself on the videos, Fellers gives brief descriptions of three or four children's books, ranging from brightly-colored illustrated or pop-up books for the youngest readers, to chapter books for more advanced readers. Publishers, authors and illustrators are mentioned, helping those who want to find the books and put them in youngsters' hands.
During her 50 years of literacy work in South Carolina, Helen Fellers has been a storyteller, bookmobile driver and branch librarian in the effort to get children to read.
Besides the videos, Fellers manages the South Carolina Center for Children's Books and Literacy book collection, leads story times at local pre-schools and teaches a course on children's literature to library science and early childhood education students. She also does for-credit presentations on early childhood literacy for staff, instructors and volunteers working at daycare and kindergartens. She serves on nine volunteer organizations dealing with libraries, literacy and the arts.
Education and literacy officials laud Fellers' achievements. Last week, she was one of three honorees awarded a University of South Carolina "Literacy Leader" award for her life's work.
Fellers said she came up with the "Reading Rooster" book recommendations when she was head of library operations at the Technical College of the Low Country in Beaufort in the 1970s, and used it on bookmarks to entice readers. She went on to work at other library systems elsewhere in the state. After her retirement from the local library system, she worked at the university, at two different Barnes and Noble bookstores, and with the South Carolina State Museum as a teaching assistant.
Feller trade-marked the Reading Rooster name, donated it to the university, and a list of the videos are now on the library's site.
In South Carolina, 39 percent of fourth-graders scored "below basic" on reading - meaning they are functionally illiterate - on the National Assessment of Education Progress in 2011, the last year scores are available. The national average was 33 percent. South Carolina's numbers get worse when broken down. Of fourth graders who live in poverty, 52 percent can't read at a basic level.