Second Annual “Read Across Valdosta” Kicks Off

School may be out this summer for most students in Lowndes County but the emphasis on reading at the youngest level continues at six local child care centers and four family child care learning homes. For the second straight year, Bright from the Start: Georgia Department of Early Care and Learning (DECAL) is partnering with Valdosta Mayor John Gayle for “Read Across Valdosta,” a local version of the statewide “Read Across Georgia” program created by Governor Nathan Deal and First Lady Sandra Deal.

The Mayor and DECAL officials will visit 10 child care programs and read to children between June 5 and July 24, 2017. “If a child doesn’t have the opportunity to read books, they just don’t understand the world sometimes,” said Mayor Gayle. “Research shows us that the importance of literacy begins at a very early age. From birth to third grade, our children learn to read, and from fourth grade on up, they read to learn.”

Mayor Gayle will be joined by Jill O’Meara, DECAL’s South Georgia Early Education Empowerment Zone (E3Z) community coordinator for Brooks, Colquitt, Cook, Echols, and Lowndes counties. Stops will include Kreative Kidz Academy, Home ‘2’ Childcare and Development Center, Tender Years Learning Center #8, Brookfield Academy, Grace Day Care Center, Rainbow Learning Center, and Family Child Care Learning Homes operated by Kim Jackson, Abigail Jones, Keisha Mathis, and Karen Raulerson.

“We are proud to again join with Mayor Gayle in reminding everyone about the importance of early literacy and reading to children in our schools, child care programs, and most importantly in our homes,” said O’Meara. “Together we are guiding Georgia’s youngest learners toward a path to read on grade level by the end of the third grade which is a predictor of future positive outcomes for children.”

All of the programs being visited are part of Quality Rated, Georgia’s tiered quality rating and improvement system similar to rating systems for restaurants and hotels. Quality Rated assigns a rating (one star, two star, or three star) to child care programs that meet certain quality standards in early childhood education over and above the state licensing requirements for health and safety.

Kreative Kidz Academy, a two-star Quality Rated program, recently received a $50,000 Child Care Expansion Grant from the State of Georgia to help expand programs designed to serve infants and toddlers in E3Z counties.

Families looking for child care can learn more the importance of selecting a Quality Rated child care program at and can search for Quality Rated child care programs on the DECAL website at

Reg Griffin
DECAL Communications Director

Bright from the Start: Georgia Department of Early Care and Learning is responsible for meeting the child care and early education needs of Georgia’s children and their families. It administers the nationally recognized Georgia’s Pre-K Program, licenses child care centers and home-based child care, administers Georgia’s Childcare and Parent Services (CAPS) program, federal nutrition programs, and manages Quality Rated, Georgia’s community powered child care rating system. The department also houses the Head Start State Collaboration Office, distributes federal funding to enhance the quality and availability of child care, and works collaboratively with Georgia child care resource and referral agencies and organizations throughout the state to enhance early care and education.