The book series promotes literacy in South Dakota

YANKTON, S.D. (AP) – The authors of the "Porter the Hoarder" children's book series involve children and encourage families to read together.

At the beginning of this month at the Yankton Community Library, Sean Covel, author of children's books and film producer, and Rebecca Swift – illustrator, makeup artist and native of Yankton – appeared at the Yankton Community Library to present a series of books for children who are creating.

The books are based on the character Porter the Hoarder, a young girl who puts all kinds of things in her room, from toys to rotting banana skins and chewing gum, according to Yankton Daily Press & Dakotan.

"What I love about Porter the Hoarder is that Rebecca has taken such a simple design and brought out so much emotion from this character," said Covel. "This is fantastic for some reasons. One, because it is fun to use a simple design and arouse great, great emotion, but secondly, because children can draw it, and as part of the presentations we give in class, Rebecca gets up and says: Here's how you do it: here's a biscuit for the head and bananas for the hair and this is how McDonald's bows are made for the bows. & # 39; "

The children pick it up quickly and can start drawing Porter – an emotional character – in ways that express their emotions, he said.

"Remove the eyebrows and flip the mouth and it's a completely different emotion," said Covel. "Children have fun in a world."

In fact, the idea for the character is based on a real child.

"My daughter, Logan, is now 14, and when she was a child, I was helping her tidy up her room and I opened a drawer and found a mountain of candy and junk and just strange things," Swift said. "I said," My daughter is a hoarder, "I drew the picture and told Sean about Porter the Hoarder."

It happened about nine years ago.

Covel, a native of Edgemont, produced the film "Napoleon Dynamite" and has worked in film for the past 15 years. He met Swift while they were both working on a movie about the Black Hills.

"Last year was the first time we actually put something together," said Covel. "Originally, this was a count book. What happens is that you have the main character, Porter, and as you browse, the reader – the adult – is reading with the child in the first 10 pages, say, and they are explaining how the story works. "

Covel and Swift visited the second grade class that his sister taught in Sturgis and read the book to his students.

"In the beginning was" Count the number of handkerchiefs ", but then, when we received feedback from the children, they were like" It should be harder to find, "said Covel." Suddenly, it became a book search and find, and the second happened, this could be his messy room, but we could have a new character that is Porter in an excursion, or a new character that is Porter making pizza or a new character that is Porter trick or treat in the monster district. That's where the idea for these 64 books came from. "

"The reader can help Porter decide what's left and what's going on," added Swift. "Some things are absolutely disgusting and some are toys and trinkets that can hold".

Starting this month, there are four complete "Porter the Hoarder" books available on There are two other "Porter" books written and illustrated and Covel recently finished writing his seventh book.

Although Swift had the idea and designed the basic character, it was Covel who gave Porter a voice, not only through his dialogue on paper, but through the presentations he and Swift give around the state, a a voice that, according to Swift, explodes their young fans with laughter.

"In January, we carried out a project with a United Way of the Black Hill initiative called Black Hills Reads," said Covel. "In that project, we distributed 2,400 copies of the book to all the first students of the Black Hills from north to Belle Fourche as far south as Edgemont."

After the pilot of Black Hills, S.D. Statewide Family Engagement Center (SDSFEC) was involved. SDSFEC is one of 13 state-run family engagement organizations funded through a grant from the US Department of Education. The Black Hills Special Services Cooperative and the South Parent Parent Parent have applied for the grant in collaboration with the South Dakota Department of Education, according to S.D. Morgan VonHaden, director of the statewide family involvement project.

The goal of SDSFEC is to provide all students with the support they need to achieve academic, career and life goals, according to the group's website.

The grant to promote the family's commitment to literacy and education was granted last October and amounts to $ 4.8 million for five years, said VonHaden.

"We are really excited to collaborate with Sean and Rebecca with" Porter the Hoarder "to entertain children in literacy and reading and to have parents and children who read together, but also, on a side note, have the their book in all these schools has opened the doors to more schools to learn about family involvement, "said VonHaden. "It was an extraordinary partnership."

Covel and Swift will continue to work with SDSFEC to promote "Porter the Hoarder" and family literacy for the next four years.

As a reading activity, "Porter the Hoarder" was ideal for family engagement because it was written to be read by an adult by a child. When the book is presented in a class, the teacher reads while the students follow the large class display.

"Once the lesson has read it, they say:" Did you like the book? "Covel said." Then, suddenly, due to the Family Engagement Center, due to United Way, due to Black Hills Reads, the teacher can say: "Guess a little Get your copy right away for free. "

Students are sent home with a special homework assignment for their parents. Explain the idea behind the book and ask them to read it with their child.

"The Department of Education is one of our biggest partners and has written lesson plans to associate with" Porter the Hoarder, "said VonHaden." So we have STEM lessons and a social / emotional learning plan that comes from the Department of Education. "

Through the concession, SDSFEC will continue to buy books to give to young readers.

"We have distributed 5,000 books this week. So far we have probably read 1,500 children; we will have read to 1,000 more by the end of tomorrow," Covel said. "This is a five-year initiative in which every pupil in South Dakota's first grade will receive their book every year for the next five years."

During that time, Covel and Swift hope to continue to present "Porter" to schools and communities to support literacy throughout the state, but also to stay in touch with their fan base.

"It's really nice what children have to say," Swift said. "They are our audience and this makes the difference for us. It is really important to see what the children have to say, because we want them to be happy. "


Information from: Yankton Press and Dakotan,

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