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Access: Denied


Long before she was CEO of Amerigroup Georgia, Fran Gary was homeless, hungry, abused, and kept from school. Most of the indicators of an unhealthy childhood were daily realities, mainly caused by a lack of Access. Living in a constant state of fear and uncertainty, Fran hung on for dear life to the moments she could steal alone with the four books she owned.

She had already learned to read by the fourth grade before, as she puts it, “things turned dark” as they often do for so many children in her situation. It was the reading-to-learn part that saved her life. Through her four books, and later with a little help from Maya Angelou, her conditions changed completely.

Fifty years later, children are still struggling to survive in the same ways Fran did—but usually without the advantage of knowing how to read. Without Access, very few children can break away from cycles of abuse and poverty. It’s on all of us to make sure they have help. “Access matters,” Fran says. “Let’s make sure all children have a strong foundation to not just survive, but to thrive.”

Don’t miss Fran’s moving recollection of her remarkable journey. Then go back to hear Emily Rubin talk about the symbiotic relationship between social connections and brain chemistry. You can watch all the speakers who took the stage during the Get Georgia Reading Innovation Summit in September, plus many more videos, on our YouTube channel.


Watch Marcus Autism Center Director Ami Klin, who shares his ideas about engineering a guide to social development that could give families access to screening in a child’s early years—the most critical time to support healthy brain development.

You can hear all our speakers from the Innovation Summit by subscribing to the Get Georgia Reading YouTube channel.