Getting a “Read” on the Situation

With local and district leaders standing in support, Screven County Commission Chairman Will Boyd and Sylvania Mayor Preston Dees sign and approve “Get Georgia Reading Proclamation Day” in the county on Nov. 8.

By Enoch Autry
Sylvania Telephone Newspaper Editor

Ink was put to paper for a proclamation in November denoting something Screven County has been pushing for and will continue that push for in the future.

That push is for the overall future of the county.

Screven County has officially been designated as a Get Georgia Reading Campaign community with the proclamation signing by Screven County Commission Chairman Will Boyd and Sylvania Mayor Preston Dees.

Locally, multiple initiatives have been made to get children more reader-ready before they enter the doors to the elementary school and the importance of reading for those already seated in classrooms has been intensified.

It is vital to have students reading on grade level by third grade. At that point, it is difficult for students to catch up with their peers in reading comprehension.

State Rep. Jon Burns, the House Majority Leader, said being able to read well is a necessity. “Even driving a truck,” Burns said, “if we can’t read the road signs, it is pretty difficult.”

Burns said Georgia First Lady Sandra Deal has a goal to read to 1,000 classrooms before she and her husband Gov. Nathan Deal leave office. “I want to thank those of you involved in this,” said Burns in the Sylvania city council conference room. “We will continue to support you.”

Georgia now leads the nation with the largest number of local efforts, with 88 communities in 82 counties partnered together through Get Georgia Reading, a statewide campaign comprised of people, organizations, and communities that applies a common agenda as a framework for action so that all children become proficient readers by the end of third grade.

“Screven Reads” is one such partnership as a team is committed to improving early literacy in Screven County.

Cathy Kight and other members of the Community Collaborative, school leaders from the Screven County Board of Education, Screven County Elementary School, Screven County Middle School and Screven County High School, along with local business representatives have worked together to sponsor meetings and other events to provide information about the importance of students reading on grade level by third grade.

“This is such an important issue,” said Assistant Superintendent Jim Thompson. “We can’t do this by ourselves. We support this initiative.”

SCES Principal Brett Warren attended with Assistant Principal Misti Duncan. “Many times they are behind by the time they get to us,” Warren said of the incoming students.

Lorie Autry, executive director of the United Way of Screven County, said the United Way has worked with the Collaborative and also has its own literacy initiative.

Dorie Bacon, executive director of the Screven County Development Authority, said there will be a need for more skilled laborers in the future.

“You’ve got to start young,” said Will Boyd, Screven County Commission chairman. “If you wait around, you have missed your opportunity.”

Screven Reads has installed Book Boxes at six different locations across the county, has sponsored summer tutoring, has partnered with Community Collaborative’s Tech Bus, all to get books, resources and other information out into the community.

The Get Georgia Reading Campaign establishes a framework for action that ensures all Georgia third graders are on the path to reading proficiency by the completion of third grade.

This campaign, initiated through partnerships like Screven Reads, offers four research-based pillars to provide families and students with the tools for literacy success.

Screven Reads works to ensure that those four pillars – language nutrition, access, positive learning climate, and teacher preparation and effectiveness – are addressed in the community.

Screven Reads has committed to targeting early literacy as an urgent priority and continues to develop comprehensive action plans to put Screven County’s youngest citizens on the path to early school success.

Ongoing initiatives, in addition to the Summer Feeding and Reading Program, include book exchange boxes located at Hawk Enrichment Center, SCES, SCMS, SCBOE, University of Georgia Extension Office, and Westview Apartments. Included with books are bookmarks providing families with information regarding the importance of talking to children.

According to research, reading proficiency by the end of third grade is a critical milestone toward high-school graduation and success later in life. Third grade marks the transition for students from “learning to read” to “reading to learn.”

Children unable to make this shift face serious barriers for future learning, because they can’t grasp half of the printed fourth-grade curriculum and beyond, including math and science. As a result, these children fall even further behind.

Students who have not mastered reading by that time are more likely to become high school dropouts and struggle throughout their lives. At present, 66 percent of Georgia’s third grade students are not reading proficiently. Screven Reads will target children birth to age 8.

For more information on early literacy, including Screven Reads, please contact Cathy Kight at Community Collaborative, the Screven County Board of Education, Janet McGhee, Screven County Middle School; or Brett Warren, Screven County Elementary.