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Governor's visit kicks off "Read Across Georgia"

Governor Nathan Deal, First Lady Sandra Deal and Commissioner Bobby Cagle from the Department of Early Care and Learning stopped by Pine Street Elementary's Pre-K class Monday to kick off  "Read Across Georgia" month for March.

The stop was also part of a year-long initiative to promote reading proficiency in elementary school aged children, especially by the time students reach third grade.

"We're trying to read in every school system so these children know we think reading is important," said Mrs. Deal, who had already visited 170 schools and 100 counties in the last year. "We believe if they learn to read now and are proficient readers by third grade, they should be able to do well in school the rest of their lives and hopefully become good citizens with the ability to get a good job that pays a reasonable amount."

"We may not see the results in our lifetime," she continued, "but still we hope they will be successful if they learn to read by third grade."

Gov. Deal said that 10 more days were going to be added back to the lottery funded Bright from the Start Pre-K program, one of the lottery's HOPE Scholarship programs, to restore the 180 day calendar.

"We know that money spent on early learning is some of the best money we spend in the education system, to get young people ready to go to school," Deal said. "We have put money in the budget, we started last year, with reading mentors to try and make sure children do read on grade level before they leave the third grade. We have continued again with the budget this year."

At Pine Street Elementary, the 20 students seated on the blue carpet in Mrs. Frazier's pre-K classroom gawked at the equal number of administrators, assistants, dignitaries and media that packed into the classroom.

First Lady Sandra Deal, a former sixth grade teacher, read a poem written by Gov. Deal called "Learning to Read." She then read a book by Georgia based author Elizabeth Brown, "What I'd Like to Be," copies of which were donated by AT&T to schools.

After reading the story, the First Lady asked the class what they wanted to be when they grew up.

The children replied with a wide variety of professions, including policemen and firefighters. Frederico Jones was one of two aspiring cowboys. Anslie Andre said she'd like to be a teacher. Branson Moore said he'd like to be a doctor. Nicholas Johnson raised his hand and said with great seriousness that he was going to be Spider-Man when he grew up.

First Lady Deal said all those professions require the ability to read. 

"It's very important for us to learn how to read... And once you learn how to read what's the next most important thing?" she asked. "Practice." She encouraged the students to go home and practice reading to their parents, neighbors, siblings and friends.

Robin Currie, who coordinates the Bright From the Start Pre-K program for Rockdale and Newton counties, had brought the school to the attention of the First Lady's staffers. Currie praised the teachers and classes at Pine Street Elementary and the school's mix of children from various backgrounds and socioeconomic levels.

The First Lady and Commissioner Cagle then went on to visit South Salem Elementary School in Covington and back to the state Captiol for another kick off event for "Read Across Georgia" month with the state Superintendent Dr. John Barge.

As part of the initiative, the Department of Early Care and Learning will sponsor “Georgia Reads Aloud Day” on Tuesday, March 19. On this day, parents, child care providers and the entire community are encouraged to make a special effort to read to children of all ages. Classrooms are also invited to enter a contest for the “Most Books Read” between the hours of 7 a.m. and 6 p.m. on March 19. The winning classroom will receive a special visit and reading from Mrs. Deal and DECAL Commissioner Bobby Cagle. 

“Reading can have a huge impact in the lives of our state’s youngest learners and ‘Read Across Georgia’ and ‘Georgia Reads Aloud Day’ are great ways for everyone to get involved,” said DECAL Commissioner Bobby Cagle in a statement. “Both programs support Governor Deal’s goal to have all of Georgia’s children reading on grade level by third grade.”