Bookmark March For Reading

What a strategic start to Read Across Georgia. March 2 was Dr. Seuss’s birthday (he would have been 111). Many of us are anxiously awaiting the July 28 release of a recently discovered picture-book manuscript by Seuss, What Pet Should I Get?

First lady Sandra Deal also debuted a new story for Georgia, too, both figuratively and literally.

TJ’s Discovery was written by teachers at the Rollins Center for Language and Literacy at the Atlanta Speech School, who worked alongside Deal and Bright From The Start: Georgia Department of Early Care and Learning.

“Reading at grade level by the end of third grade is a predictor of positive outcomes for children later in life,” said DECAL Commissioner Amy Jacobs. “DECAL supports Governor Deal’s grade-level reading goal by laying a solid foundation of pre-literacy skills in Georgia’s youngest children from birth to age 5 in child care settings and in Georgia’s Pre-K Program.”

A copy of TJ’s Discovery will be given as a gift to every student in Georgia’s Pre-K Program. Not only is it a tale about overcoming fears, it’s also meant to help parents and caregivers overcome their own reservations about reading to children.

“Our goal is to be able to send a book home with each pre-K child at the end of this school term,” said Mrs. Deal, “so they can practice at home and they will have already had it read to them at school.”

Mrs. Deal launched Read Across Georgia Month in 2012, in support of Georgia’s grade-level reading initiative, which aims to have all Georgia third-graders reading at grade level or better.

As a cabinet member of the Get Georgia Reading Campaign, an active participant of literacy initiatives throughout the state, and, most importantly, a former teacher, Deal has made early reading proficiency a top priority. To promote statewide childhood literacy, Mrs. Deal will visit and read to Pre-K students across Georgia during the month of March.

“It’s tremendously inspiring that our first lady has time to visit every county and actually get on the floor and play with children,” said Gaye Smith, Georgia Family Connection Partnership Executive Director. “That symbolizes our state’s commitment that every child is on a path to reading.”

“A firm literary foundation is essential for academic success, and the Read Across Georgia initiative helps to provide just that,” Governor Deal said. “I’m confident that through our continued partnerships with state agencies, organizations, and classrooms all over the state, we can fully achieve our goal of educating all children to their fullest potential.”

It inspired hope to see in the north wing of the Capitol on Monday, just how public and private organizations are working together to tackle early literacy. The Ferst Foundation sees to it that young children get free books from birth through 5 years old, while Georgia State Parks & Historic Sites is escorting kids through library doors by allowing them to check out park passes as if they were books.

The Governor’s Office of Student Achievement is leading a reading mentor program and advancing strides to prevent summer learning loss, while the dedicated team from Georgia Public Libraries was on hand to promote partnerships with The Braves. Did you know you can earn a free ticket to a game by reading a book? Attendees also learned about other programs, including 1,000 Books B4 Kindergarten, Every Child Ready to Read, and Prime Time Family Reading Time.

Education Superintendent Richard Woods remarked that having so many key players focused on this topic will be essential to making lasting change for Georgia.

“I’m very encouraged about having the support of the governor and first lady, and so many members of our educational committee in the House and Senate on this,” he said. “As a secondary social studies teacher, I was able to see, first-hand, kids who understood the content of the lesson, but their weakness was reading and reading comprehension. It puts that importance of literacy into context. It’s especially important that students read well by third grade.”

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