“I’ve been reading all over the state, I’ve been in every county and every school system over the last two to three years and I’m just continuing, as long as I can, to get to every child in every school that I can because I want them to realize how important we think reading is because if they can read by the time they get to third grade and be really good readers, then when they start to read that information for the upper grades in fourth and on up, then they will be better able to handle the material and be successful,” Deal said after reading to kindergarten and pre-K students at MRES. “If they’re struggling in fourth grade, they’re already starting to lose confidence, get behind, have a bad attitude.
“I taught sixth grade mostly, and I know that by the time they get to sixth grade, if they’re struggling, then they’re not going to do well in high school and those are the ones that quit or struggle through at the bottom of their classes and that’s not what we want for our children. We want all our children to want to learn to read, to be eager about reading and to realize that it takes practice and work, but it can be fun.”
As she read “Who I’d Like To Be,” which was written by Brown at age 90, Deal drew audience participation from students, a learning method MRES Principal Sherrie Hughes said she likes implementing throughout the school year to help students become excited about reading.
“One thing, for example, is our kindergarten students all had gingerbread men that disappeared right after Christmas and they have gone all over the place, one even went to the Philippines, and they are putting themselves and all their adventures in a book and sending them back so the children are able to read those books where their gingerbread men have left and come back [and] they have all these stories they are telling,” Hughes said. “I like to read to the children myself, so a lot of times I’ll go to the rooms and read to the children [and] we have a fantastic media specialist that really instills the love of reading in the classroom.
“Reading is just such an important part, we really focus on it in all grade levels ... I talk to the students too about if you get a book and after the first few pages you don’t like it, find another one, it’s OK, you don’t have to like everything. We try to teach them that they’re going to like something that is in their niche ... so they can enjoy that reading also.”
According to a press release provided by the governor’s office, Read Across Georgia Month is in support of the Grade Level Reading Initiative, which is “a push to have all Georgia third graders reading at grade level or better by the completion of third grade.”
“During my administration, Sandra and I have made increasing the percentage of Georgia’s third grade students reading at grade level a top priority,” Nathan Deal said in the release. “With the help of state agencies and organizations, we have made great strides in achieving this goal. When we fail to strategically invest resources in our youngest students, we are forced to spend more money trying to remediate them later. By prioritizing early childhood education, we ensure that our youngest students are positioned for future academic excellence.”
Bobby Cagle, commissioner for Bright from the Start: Georgia Department of Early Care and Learning, cited phase two results from a study conducted by researchers with the Frank Porter Graham Child Development Institute at UNC Chapel Hill, which, according to the press release, “confirmed that participation in Georgia Pre-K has significant positive effects on children’s language and literacy skills, including letter knowledge, letter-word identification, phonological awareness and phonemic awareness.”
“The development of early literacy skills today for children birth to [age] 5 — especially in lower socioeconomic and dual-language families — can determine their chances for academic and professional success tomorrow,” Cagle said in the release. “The first five years of life present an extremely valuable opportunity to build a solid foundation for future learning, one that if lost can never be regained. Encouraging reading among our youngest learners helps build that early foundation and supports Governor Deal’s goal of seeing all children reading on grade-level by third grade.”