Mrs. Deal completed her reading tour in mid-May with a visit to Lanier Primary School in Bryan County. And Gov. Nathan Deal said he believes “she is the first First Lady to visit every county in the state as well as the first to visit every school system in our state.”
It took a lot of time and a strong dedication to the cause of helping school children see the light on the importance of learning to read and reading well. The impetus for “Read Across Georgia” stemmed from the governor’s priority of improving the percentage of students reading at or above grade level by the time they finish third grade.
The point was made in the "Read Across Georgia" news release that “children who do not read at grade level by third grade often fail to catch up and are more likely to require remediation, drop out of school and have higher unemployment rates later in life than their reading-proficient peers.” Another point of urgency: A scant 32 percent of Georgia fourth-graders performed at or higher than “proficient” in the 2011 report by the National Association of Educational Progress.
It’s no surprise that Sandra Deal made reading her special interest. Her parents, like her husband’s, were teachers, and she chose the same calling. The passion with which she has carried out her “Read Across Georgia” mission undoubtedly comes from her love of teaching children.
That showed in her interaction in early March with about 50 pre-K children huddled on a rug at Dade Elementary in Trenton. As she did at every other school she visited, she read “Who I’d Like to Be,” a children’s book by another Georgian, Elizabeth Brown, written when she was 90, and illustrated by her great-granddaughter Alexandria Brown of Canton, at age 8. The book tells the story of a young boy who dreams about being various animals and insects before he finally decides he’s happy being himself -- a plot that’s sure to excite the interest of children. Also to encourage her young listeners, Mrs. Deal recited “Learning to Read,” a poem by the governor himself.
She told the children that practice is the key to learning to read. To a reporter, she emphasized a truth that should be engraved in every parent’s mind — to your children, and it’s also important that children read to their parents. Her sound advice: Turn off the TV and read.
After completing her tour, the first lady said: “It has been an absolute joy, and I hope that it inspired the future leaders of our state to want to learn to read.”
Thank you, Sandra Deal, for caring enough to try to make a difference for Georgia’s school children.