Gov. and Mrs. Deal Launch Read Across Georgia Month One Last Time as First Couple

Gov. Nathan Deal signed a proclamation for Read Across Georgia Month and one for Get Georgia Reading Day.

Governor proclaims March 5 as Get Georgia Reading Day

Gov. Nathan Deal and first lady Sandra Deal kicked off Read Across Georgia Month one last time as first couple, with help from celebrated children’s author and storyteller Carmen Agra Deedy; Georgia Department of Early Care and Learning (DECAL) Commissioner Amy Jacobs; Get Georgia Reading Campaign Director Arianne Weldon; and Sustainable Forestry Initiative Chief Conservation Officer Paul Trianosky, a new partner in this work.

“Low achievement in reading is a systemic crisis that calls for innovative solutions to complex issues,” said Weldon. “Children can’t learn when they’re hungry, sick, or scared. That’s why today in Georgia we treat literacy as an urgent priority for anyone who cares about children’s health and well-being.”

Gov. Deal proclaimed March 5 as Get Georgia Reading Day to highlight the critical role of reading and literacy skills in building a brighter future for our children, communities, and state. He urged Georgians to remain committed beyond his administration to this urgent priority, recalling the story he told in his 2018 state-of-the-state address of a man who planted a tree, even though he would never live to eat its fruit or rest in its shade. He planted it for those who will follow.

“Today we’re celebrating one of those trees in our orchards of opportunity,” said Gov. Deal. “For those of you who helped us plant these trees and continue to cultivate them, you will see the fruits of those trees, and it will make our state better in the process.”

Mrs. Deal also expressed her hope that the Campaign and this month-long celebration will live on, and she told the youngest Georgians present why reading should matter to them.

“Reading is important for your growth as a student in Georgia, so you can grow up and have good jobs and be truly free,” she said. “Every living thing on the planet has the capacity to do remarkable things if placed in fertile soil. And that’s why we want our schools to be top-notch.”

First lady Sandra Deal and author Carmen Agra Deedy unveil the cover of a homegrown children’s book that will be released in the fall.

The first lady provided a tangible way to get Georgia reading by unveiling a homegrown children’s book that will be released this fall. The Forever Tree was co-authored by Deedy and her husband John McCutcheon and illustrated by Thomas Gonzalez—all Georgians who volunteered their time and talents to create this book as a gift for the state’s children and families.

“I love what reading does,” said Deedy, who gave a quick taste of the book to the children and child advocates gathered in the north wing. “We hope our young readers will be like Georgia pines—that we’ll have more and more and more of them.”

The Get Georgia Reading Campaign will provide every public elementary school library in the state with a copy of the book, which will be printed on paper sourced from Georgia, thanks to a new partnership with the Georgia Forestry Foundation and Sustainable Forestry Initiative (SFI).

“We appreciate the Georgia Forestry Foundation and Gov. and Mrs. Deal, and their efforts to link Georgia forests and literacy—the education of our youth,” said Trianosky. “Together these things really do represent the future of Georgia and, I would argue, our collective future. There are 25 million acres of forest land in Georgia that provide clean water and air, wildlife habitats, recreational opportunities, forest products—and jobs for thousands of people. We’re especially pleased that the book will carry the SFI label when it’s produced with sustainably sourced products.”

From left: Paul Trianosky, chief conservation officer for the Sustainable Forestry Initiative; Sandra Deal; Ember Bishop Bentley, executive director of the Georgia Forestry Foundation; and Carmen Deedy

Gov. Deal agreed and said, “SFI will take a sustainable and important resource from the state of Georgia and turn it into the future for children in our state.”

Mrs. Deal also expressed her excitement about another new children’s book by author and Georgia native Coy Bowles from the Zac Brown Band, which came out March 6. Behind the Little Red Door, published in partnership with DECAL, encourages early learners to stretch their imaginations, and will be presented to Pre-K students and their families in celebration of the 25th birthday of Georgia’s Pre-K Program this school year.

The governor and first lady urged all Georgians to pick their favorite book during Read Across Georgia Month and volunteer as a guest reader at a school or library, to read to children in their families, to listen to a child read, or to help a second-language non-reading adult sign up for classes.

“Nearly 1 million children under age 9 live in Georgia,” said Weldon. “The only way we can reach them all is if communities across the state join us in this effort. Getting more kids to read takes more than good schools, more than great teachers, and more than loving parents. It takes all of us working together.”

Send photos from your Read Across Georgia event to, and use the hashtags #GetGAReading and #ReadAcrossGA with your social media posts this month.

Bill Valladares
GaFCP Communications Director

Follow us on Twitter: @gafcpnews

To learn more about DECAL’s 25th birthday celebration, contact:
Reg Griffin
DECAL Communications Director