Collaboration Brings Books to Children, Encourages Reading

By LAUREN MCDONALD, The Brunswick News

BRUNSWICK, Ga. (AP) — Sandra Deal held the colorfully illustrated book up high and read, letting the inflections of her voice rise and fall with the action of the story.

The state’s former first lady sat in front of a fireplace for the recorded reading of “The Little Red Hen,” a children’s book by Liza Charlesworth. She followed her reading with a few questions and a lesson on sharing for her young audience.

“Was Little Red Hen a hard worker?” Deal asked. “How do you know? What did she do? And what did she make? And did she share? Why didn’t the animals get any of Little Red Hen’s bread? Do you think that was fair?”

Deal was one of many who contributed to the recently launched “Glynn County Book Buddy Videos” program, the goal of which is to get age-appropriate books in the hands of the community’s 4 year olds and engage them in early literacy education.

The Early Education and Child Care Collaborative of Glynn County organized the effort, which evolved from an initial idea to simply purchase books for children into the creation of a website that offers numerous literacy education resources.

A wide array of readers were enlisted to record book readings for the program, including local high school students, residents, Brunswick Mayor Cornell Harvey, former Glynn Academy football standout DeeJay Dallas, U.S. Rep. Buddy Carter, R-1, and Deal, a longtime advocate for literacy education.

The website also includes two dramatized readings of the stories created by Brunswick High and Glynn Academy acting troupes, as well as activities created by local preschool teachers.

The books, videos and activities are intended for use in classrooms and at home.

The program was funded through a grant from the Sandra Deal Center for Early Language and Literacy that the Early Education/Child Care Collaborative received for 2020.

The project replaces the annual KinderCarnival event, which usually attracts around 1,000 people and provides resources and activities that promote literacy.

“During these pandemic days, events and activities such as our annual KinderCarnival to promote early literacy for preschool-aged children are just not a good idea,” said Melinda Ennis-Roughton, executive director of Family Connection Glynn, which leads the collaborative. “Yet our committee felt it is more imperative than ever to engage our earliest learners in the joys of reading and activities that promote life-long literacy. This program is a great example of creative thinking and problem solving by our committee to assure that little learners are engaged and excited about reading at school and in their own homes with family members during the holiday season.”

All 4-year-olds are receiving two books, “The Little Red Hen” and “Lion and Mouse,” both by Liza Charlesworth. Each book includes a sticker with a QR code that leads to the new website,

Core partners on the project are staff at Marshes of Glynn Libraries and Brian Griffin, the local quality improvement coordinator for Bright From the Start, the state agency that monitors and regulates the Georgia pre-K program.

“It brought the whole community together because you have community members reading books, you have high school students doing art work, you have the Boys & Girls Club doing artwork,” said Griffin, who designed the website and supported much of the technical work. “You had the high school theater troupes doing reenactments. So everybody was involved.”

Local artist Megan Torello created artwork for both books that is posted on the website. The Brunswick library plans to showcase submitted student artwork later this month.

Around 1,200 sets of books — 2,400 books total — are being distributed to preschool classes and child care centers before the holiday break begins.

“We were able to do it extremely cost effectively,” said Geri Mullis, director of Marshes of Glynn Libraries. “The most we spent on was of course the books, and that’s what we had already budgeted for.”

No film crew was hired to create any of the videos, most of which were shot on smartphones.

“We’re in the middle of a pandemic so people are doing this on a multitude of devices but mostly on smartphones,” Mullis said. “You’re getting different quality, but everybody’s (video) is so incredibly fun to watch.”

Every child who watches the videos will be able to connect with at least one of the varying styles of readers, she said.

“That’s the whole point too, to make the children connect with happy memories for literacy and reading and then bring the families together,” she said.

The project intends to reach every 4-year-old in Glynn County, the pivotal age in a child’s preparation for later academic success.

“This is truly meant to be used at home, for parents and caregivers to have that family reading time and promotion of early literacy at home,” Mullis said. “One of the fun things about this, though, is seeing all these people take the same story and make it theirs.”

Mayor Harvey added a cat’s “meow” and a mouse’s “squeaks” to his reading of “The Little Red Hen,” which he ended with a few questions.

“Wow. Only the Little Red Hen could eat the bread because nobody wanted to help the Little Red Hen. So what’s the moral of this story?” Harvey asked. “Was the Little Red Hen a little hard worker? Yeah, I think so. I think (she) was a little hard worker, but none of (her) friends would help. Why didn’t any of the animals help the Little Red Hen?”

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