It's no exaggeration to say that Sara McCraw had a serious passion for teaching reading and writing. Two weeks before a long bout with ovarian cancer took her life in November 2012, McCraw was still teaching as an assistant professor at East Carolina University. Prior to that, she earned her doctorate from University of Delaware while dealing with surgeries.
James Gardner and Sara lived in Lewes and Rehoboth Beach during the time she taught reading in the Milford School District. Those years instilled in her a strong desire to help underserved students and made her realize that high-quality read-alouds with such students and having them respond in writing, brought great advances in learning.
While researching for her doctoral dissertation, Sara discovered that while there is a lot of literature available about how to engage young students in highly interactive read-alouds, there is not nearly as much literature on how to incorporate writing into that process.
Following Sara's death, Gardner and Sara's sister, Lee McCraw-Leavitt, set up a nonprofit fund to help continue and promote the reading and writing work that Sara believed in so much. Through the Greater Greenville Community Foundation in Greenville, N.C., the Sara B. McCraw Memorial Reading Fund is providing resources to show teachers and education students how to work with underserved students through reading and writing programs.
Another goal of the fund is to assist in creating and providing targeted programs at universities and elementary schools wherever the need to help young readers and writers exists, starting with the three that Sara was most involved with: The University of Maryland, the University of Delaware and East Carolina University. This program will be called When Sara Smiles in remembrance of the smile that she constantly had on her face when teaching students of any age.
As the fund grows, the focus of the program will gradually become more sharply pointed at developing the skills of young writers, which was the most important aspect to Sara.
For further information about the memorial fund, go to whensarasmiles.com.