“More Than a Book” Awards Luncheon Honors Get Georgia Reading Campaign’s Arianne Weldon

Get Georgia Reading—Campaign for Grade-Level Reading Director Arianne Weldon was among a group of literacy and education advocates who received KPMG’s 2017 More Than a Book award at a gala luncheon at the Georgia Freight Depot earlier this month. Liz Huntley, distinguished attorney, committed child advocate, and author of the inspirational memoir More Than a Bird, delivered the keynote.

Professional services firm KPMG sponsors the awards, an extension of its KPMG Family for Literacy program with partner First Book. Honorees receive grants¾$5,000 for the top honoree and $2,500 for the finalist in each of the four categories to purchase new books for the nonprofit beneficiary of each honoree’s choice:

More Than a Corporation
Chick-Fil-A and Chick-Fil-A Foundation
Cox Enterprises and James M. Cox Foundation (finalist)

More Than a Leader
Malcolm Mitchell
Arianne Weldon (finalist)

More Than an Organization
Reach Out and Read Georgia
Books for Keeps (finalist)

More Than an Educator
Marcia Kochel
Kia Wansley (finalist)

According to Jeff Berger of KPMG, the committee selected Weldon, who has served as Campaign director since December 2012, because Get Georgia Reading has dramatically altered the way Georgia leaders think and talk about literacy. By using multi-dimensional data to identify patterns of risk and protective factors related to language and literacy development, the Campaign finds clues leading to new solutions and to change the conversation about what is needed and what is possible to create a new future for Georgia’s children.

Berger wrote in a news story that under Weldon’s leadership, efforts have moved from largely isolated activities to a collaborative approach that aligns outcomes, policies, and resources across sectors affecting children ¾ from birth to 8, and beyond—which is yielding a collective impact.

“Arianne and Campaign partners are constantly thinking about the research, who might already be applying that research, and where there are opportunities to expand, leverage, and replicate those efforts to fill gaps and meet needs by connecting with others,” he wrote. “For example, when Arianne learned about how public libraries in California provided summer meals and educational programming to prevent summer learning loss in 2014, she brought together leaders from the Georgia Department of Education, Department of Early Care and Learning, and the Georgia Public Library Service to nourish children’s minds and bodies when they are out of school.”

The partners began collaborating to provide summer meals in the 22 Georgia counties that lacked any summer meal programs. Since then, nearly 100 Georgia libraries have begun hosting summer meal programs, whittling the list of counties that lack a summer meal program down to two and increasing by nearly 20 percent the number of summer meals served. Arianne’s influence also led to the addition of “birth to 8 language and literacy” as a priority area in the Governor’s Innovation Grants, resulting in several million dollars being invested in new approaches to address early language and literacy across the state.

“The Campaign is truly a platform for collaboration, and I’m so grateful for the tireless efforts of our partners who are committed to ensuring that Georgia’s children are on a path to reading proficiency by the end of third grade,” said Weldon. “I’m also honored that the Campaign’s work was recognized alongside these amazing literacy advocates—especially Malcolm Mitchell, who is making a huge impact on young readers in our state.”

Read about all the More Than a Book Award recipients.