Local News

October 4, 2012

Bethel makes friends at Friendship House

The students in the Friendship House’s pre-kindergarten program had their listening ears on Wednesday morning.

“If everybody in the state Senate used their listening ears, we’d have a much easier time,” said state Sen. Charlie Bethel, R-Dalton.

Bethel came to Friendship House to visit with members of the pre-K program and read to them. He was one of nearly 140 elected officials expected to visit pre-K classrooms across the state this week to celebrate the 20th anniversary of Georgia’s lottery-funded pre-K program.

Bethel brought one of his favorite books to read as a child, “What Was That!” by Geda Bradley Mathews.

“The lady who wrote this book was from right here in Dalton. Maybe one day one of you will grow up and write a book,” Bethel told the students.

Bethel met with two classes of students, reading to them and telling them a little about his duties as a state senator. He also emphasized the importance of reading.

“No matter what you want to do or who you want to be when you grow up, reading is very  important. You need to practice your reading and make sure you are a good reader,” he said.

Bethel said he hoped his appearance helps draw attention to the importance of early education.

“The community needs to know this is one area, one program, where we get some of the greatest returns on our investment,” he said.

According to data provided by Voices for Georgia’s Children, a not-for-profit advocacy group, studies have shown that high quality pre-K for very poor children increases their chances of graduating from high school and reduces their rates of incarceration and substance abuse.

Kay Pollard, Bright from the Start pre-K consultant for northwest Georgia, said pre-K is a vital part of the joint effort by Dalton and Whitfield County to make sure that all children are reading at or above grade level by third grade. Bright from the Start licenses all state-funded pre-K programs.

“If children complete a pre-K program they are more ready for kindergarten. They are more focused. They are more open to learning, and they are on the right track to develop the reading skills they need by the third grade,” Pollard said.

Friendship House Director Mary Thelma Norris said the pre-K program tries to instill the importance of reading in students.

“We have great teachers, and we have volunteers come in every day and read to the students. They love that,” she said. “When we have a parent come in and fill out an application, even if they don’t get enrolled, we give them a book to take home. We give books away all the time. We encourage our parents to read to their kids. It doesn’t have to be a book. You can read street signs. If you go to a ball game, you can read the scoreboard.”

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