More News Black Hills area schools are expanding the most successful reading project in state history

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Black Hills area schools are expanding the most successful reading project in state history

Black Hills, S.D. (May 10, 2024) For the first time, 4,000 first and second graders across the Black Hills will participate in The Porter Project by receiving free books and “Parent Homework” the week of May 13. This year, Monument Health will be expanding the project by providing copies of Porter the Hoarder and the Hospital Hijinks to second grade students. Additionally, first grade students will receive copies of a new book, Porter the Hoarder, Nature Explorer, provided by Black Hills Reads. The Porter Project is a family engagement project initially created by Black Hills Reads, an initiative under the umbrella of United Way of the Black Hills and expanded across the state by the South Dakota Statewide Family Engagement Center for the past five years. This year, the project is returning to Black Hills Reads with several new and exciting changes to help support positive early reading habits.

Porter the Hoarder is a series of look-and-find books written by Sean Covel (producer of movies including the iconic independent film, Napoleon Dynamite) and illustrated by Rebecca Swift (artist and singer/songwriter who has appeared on American Idol). The series follows the emotional rollercoaster of a snappy little girl named Porter. In book two of the series, Porter the Hoarder, Nature Explorer, Porter must complete a nature hike by collecting only one wagon full of finds. Readers decide if she should keep things such as rainbow river rocks or flatulent flying fish. Does she keep them or throw them away? She has very strong opinions about both outcomes. In book 6 of the series, Porter the Hoarder and the Hospital Hijinks, Porter must choose between things such as shiny stethoscopes or beat-up bedpans to win an ambulance full of robots.

Both Covel and Swift are proud South Dakotans.

“It’s so exciting to release a new book for first grade families and now expand the project to include second graders as well!” said writer and Edgemont native, Sean Covel.

“As a mom of three I’ve read every kid’s book under the sun,” said illustrator Rebecca Swift who currently lives in Bridgewater, SD. “With Porter we set out to create something fun for both parents and kids. So that’s what we did! We never imagined it would be part of a massive reading project in our home state. I’m blown away.”

“United Way of the Black Hills started the Black Hills Reads initiative to promote early literacy and get kids excited about reading,” said Hanna Glissendorf, Director of Black Hills Reads. “Porter the Hoarder does this better than anything else, which is why we are so excited to once again be offering The Porter Project to students throughout the Black Hills.”

The launch will include classroom readings led by Monument Health doctors, nurses, and providers across the region. These schools extend as far north as Belle Fourche, as far south as Edgemont and cover two dozen more schools in between.

“Partnering with Porter the Hoarder is such a great opportunity for Children’s Monument Health,” said Kyle Lemley, M.D., Pediatric Hospitalist, Monument Health. “This story not only helps our young patients see health care in a less-scary way, but it helps us positively impact our communities.”



More information on the history of the project can be found at:

Porter the Hoarder books are currently available on


About Black Hills Reads

Black Hills Reads is the United Way of the Black Hills’s early education initiative, which helps ensure children are proficient readers by the end of third grade. Black Hills Reads promotes early learning and literacy opportunities for more than 24,000 early learners under nine and their families throughout the Black Hills and Western South Dakota.

About Monument Health

Headquartered in Rapid City, S.D., Monument Health is a community-based health care system with a mission to make a difference, every day. The system offers care in 31 medical specialties and serves 14 communities across western South Dakota and in eastern Wyoming. With over 5,000 physicians and caregivers, Monument Health is composed of 5 hospitals and 38 medical clinics and specialty centers. Monument Health is a member of the Mayo Clinic Care Network.

About South Dakota Statewide Family Engagement Center

The South Dakota Statewide Family Engagement Center (SFEC) is passionate about supporting communities and families. When families and communities are strong, we create nurturing environments where children learn, grow, and thrive. Our team works to provide meaningful resources, grow skills, and create partnerships that ultimately build the capacity that schools, families, and communities need to reach their goals.

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