Local News

March 6, 2013

Georgia first lady urges local students to ‘read, read, read’

COHUTTA — Six-year old Kaylee Wright can spell her name and reads “almost every day.”

She may not know it, but reading is “very important” to her quality of life, said Sandra Deal, the first lady of the state and the wife of Gov. Nathan Deal.

Kaylee was one of several kindergarten and pre-k students who met Sandra Deal early Tuesday morning at Cohutta Elementary School. Deal read a poem by her husband titled “Learning to Read” and a book titled “Who I’d Like to Be” as part of her Read Across Georgia tour.

Deal plans to visit several more Georgia schools this month to “promote literacy.”

“I want you to read, read, read,” Deal, a former teacher, told the students. “You need to practice, practice, practice ... you could write stories, you could be an author.”

Deal hopes the children of Cohutta Elementary “learn to love to read.”

“I taught sixth grade,” she said, “and when a child gets to sixth grade and they can’t read they begin to struggle and begin to be disenchanted with themselves and with school and many times they end up dropping out.”

Seven-year old Camryn Parker said she has no plans of dropping out.

“I kind of read a lot to myself,” Camryn said. “I like all kinds of books ... sometimes I read the Bible, but I don’t really like to read it ... there are hard words in it that I don’t really know. My daddy reads the Bible every time we go to church.”

Camryn enjoyed the animal characters in “Who I’d Like to Be.”

“My favorite part was the duck,” she said. “That was kind of funny. I liked when she (Deal) waddled like a duck. I already know how to waddle though.”

“I liked the end,” Kaylee said. “I liked the book because it was about animals and animals are really fun.”

Deal said she hopes her visit made an impact on the students.

“Our goal is to stop dropouts ... If they don’t have those (reading) skills by third grade we need to get them extra help to try and help them get on the right path to become successful students and graduate from high school and go on to college or vocational school or get job training so they can become successful citizens and contribute to making Georgia the best place in the nation to live.”

Asked what teachers can do to help struggling students, Deal said, “Find their interest.”

“It’s embarrassing for children to read simpler books when they get a little bit older and have difficulty,” she said. “So for the teacher to find some books that would be of interest and yet have a small vocabulary ... even if it’s magazines ... so that student can learn those vocabulary words and become proficient.

“Sometimes helping students read is as simple as getting them glasses. So we need to make sure we check their eyes ... sometimes a child can’t see well enough to read ... you just have to find where their problem is, and teachers are trained to do that and work with the child ... We think it’s so important that we promote literacy because we think that is the key to the future of Georgia’s success — to get every child ready to read.”

Deal said she is impressed by the local Readers to Leaders initiative, a collaborative effort by community leaders and school officials in Whitfield County and Dalton to ensure all local children are reading at grade level by the third grade.

“We’re just thankful for the visit,” Cindy Dobbins, principal for the school, said of Deal. “We’re thankful for the leadership by the governor and his wife.”

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