Mommy & Me Fun Day Urges Parents to Get Meriwether Reading

By Ellen Corker, Meriwether County Family Connection Volunteer

Read to your little ones.

That simple parent and child one-on-one time can make all the difference in a youngster’s later success in life.

It is the central message of Get Meriwether Reading, a coalition of Meriwether County leaders working to encourage development of the community’s next generation. And it was the focus of the Mommy & Me Fall Fun Day event coordinated by Meriwether County Family Connection.

Making sure the community’s children are reading on grade level by the time they complete third grade is the underlying focus of the Get Meriwether Reading initiative spearheaded by Meriwether County Chamber of Commerce President Carolyn McKinley and Meriwether County Family Connection Executive Director Rhonda Fuller.

“The majority of our third graders are not reading at grade level by the end of third grade, a grim statistic that puts them on a rocky academic path as they proceed through school,” McKinley said. “If we can get them ready to attend preschool, then the teachers can take over from there. But right now, our children are starting pre-K already behind where they need to be.”

Fuller and Angie Shirah, low birthweight consultant and early literacy coordinator with Meriwether County Family Connection, described to the parents who participated in the event the benefits of reading and talking with their babies and young children. They encouraged children to register for the Reading Cubs program in which all children age 4 and under receive a free LeapFrog Learning Book to prepare them for pre-K. All children received free books during the event, and kids also signed up for the Ferst Readers program to receive a free book each month until age 5.

The families—including four expectant mothers—who came out for Mommy & Me Fall Fun Day, enjoyed lunch and received a gift bag. Meriwether County Family Connection provided free diapers and wipes for everyone, and there was a clothing bank for children age 4 and under along with a drawing with giveaways of baby items including high chairs, strollers, bouncy seats, a car seat, and toys.

“These families were so engaged and appreciated all the resources and free items they received,” said Fuller. “We even had a family with a need for a refrigerator and were able to connect them with a resource to provide them with a new one.”

During the event, Meriwether County School System Superintendent Robert Griffin shared an update on the new wraparound centers which opened this year to address families’ needs, including students’ living environment, basic needs, and safety—as well as social, emotional, educational, spiritual, and cultural needs.

These resource centers, made possible through a federal grant, are located at Greenville Middle School, Greenville High School, and Manchester High School. Programs and services are designed to increase the percentage of at-risk students who graduate from high school, attend college, choose productive careers, and become positive community citizens. The centers include a:

  • clothes closet (also located at Meriwether’s Unity and Mountain View elementary schools)
  • care closet (personal hygiene)
  • laundry center,
  • food pantry,
  • counseling center,
  • health clinic,
  • computer center (academic support including tutoring and mentoring), and
  • college and career guidance center.

The Get Meriwether Reading Mommy & Me event, held at Manchester First Assembly of God, is part of Meriwether County Family Connection’s strategy to improve early childhood health, literacy, and family wellness and stability, which is part of Georgia Family Connection Partnership’s Low Birthweight Prevention Cohort, and supported by donations from:

  • CareSource,
  • WellCare,
  • PeachCare,
  • Amerigroup,
  • Twin Cedars,
  • Bright from the Start: Georgia Department of Early Care and Learning,
  • Healthy Mothers, Healthy Babies Coalition of Georgia,
  • Georgia Department of Public Health, and
  • Ferst Readers.

“We owe it to the children of our community to give them an environment where they can grow up to be successful,” said Fuller. “Our goal is to create an environment where all children are healthy and ready to read when they arrive at pre-K. To achieve that goal, we must reach parents, educators, business leaders, churches, libraries, and all the agencies that provide services to families and make sure we’re providing the resources to make that happen. These events help us do just that.”