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First Lady Sandra Deal visits Dawson County
5. Sandra Deal visits pic 1
Georgias First Lady, Sandra Deal, visited Dawson County last week to talk about literacy. - photo by David Renner Dawson Community News

Georgia's First Lady was back in Dawson County last week to spread the word on childhood literacy.

"Reading is one of the most important keystones of our community," Deal said. "If we can get our children reading early and often, we can make sure they graduate and go on to be successful members of society."

Hosted by the Dawson County Board of Education, a luncheon was held July 30 in order to give the First Lady of Georgia a chance to speak on her Get Georgia Reading initiative.

The overall goal for the initiative is to have all children in Georgia on a path to reading proficiently by the end of third grade.

"If we are going to change our society and help make our communities better and help to alleviate some of the fear that people have, we have to do something in the way of education," she said. "My husband has worked so hard to bring jobs to this state, but you have to have an education to do these jobs."

As Deal was a former public school teacher, School Superintendent Damon Gibbs said he was thrilled to host her reading initiative meeting.

"We are very excited to host this event," Gibbs said. "We are very proud to have an advocate for public education in Mrs. Deal. In public education, we battle two major things on a daily bases - poverty and childhood literacy. If we can have children reading on grade level by the end of third grade, we know we can have them graduate."

Deal echoed Gibbs' statistics.

"Having taught sixth grade, I knew how they could get so far behind and how unhappy they would be sometimes, struggling, because they couldn't make good grades if they couldn't read," she said. "As much as I love the middle school-aged children, we've got to start with the little ones.

"That's where they develop and grow. And if we can get them reading by third grade, then from that point on, they are reading for information and they'll be able to read on their own."

Dawson County also holds a special place in Deal's heart.

"My parents taught here in the 1970s," she said. "They were teaching [in Dawson] when the school burned down. We lived in Hall County ... but mother taught second grade here for one year and daddy taught eighth-grade math."

Deal said she strives to push early reading in order to influence both past, present and future generations to become educated and treat reading as something fun to do.

"We have to encourage children to want to learn to read. It's not enough to just teach them. They have to want to learn to read and be excited and eager to read," she said. "I like to try to introduce that it can be fun and make them want to go home and practice, practice, practice, so that they can be good readers."