As part of "Read Across Georgia" month, Gov. Nathan Deal and wife Sandra have touted literacy initiatives in visits across the state.
Last week, the Deals talked about the importance of literacy during the Certified Literate Community Program's state retreat at Amicalola Falls Lodge.
"For all of you who are involved in the literacy programs all across this state, what you do is very important," Gov. Deal said.
"You are trying to fill a void that we have in Georgia, and that is too many people doing life illiterate. It is a void that not only affects their lives, but the lives of their children and their extended family."
According to Certified Literate Community Program data, reading abilities play a crucial role in personal and statewide economic development.
Research shows 75 percent of unemployed adults have reading or writing difficulties. Furthermore, seven in 10 prisoners perform in the lowest two literacy levels.
The program's regional organizations seek to combat adult illiteracy through GED classes, adult learning centers and afterschool homework programs in schools. They also address transportation and child care needs for participants.
The governor thanked the directors, regional volunteers and technical college presidents and vice presidents for their work. READ, the Reading Education Association of Dawson County, is a registered CLCP organization that took part in the retreat.
"What you do for the adults who are illiterate couples with what we do at every other level of education," he said.
"It is a double-edged sword that cuts favorably in every direction when you teach a parent to read. I thank you for doing that."
He also invited his wife to talk about "Read Across Georgia," her initiative toward increasing the percentage of children reading at grade level by the end of third grade.
Sandra Deal, who has been visiting schools across the state this month to raise awareness, recently stopped at Kilough Elementary.
"The reality of it is that if a child does not have that skill of reading by the end of the third grade, we spend a lot of money in remediation all the way up trying to drag them across the graduation line," the governor said. "The best way to stop the cost associated with that is to make sure they get it right the first time. We are making a concerted effort on that."
Other educational programs the governor mentioned included the dual enrollment program, Complete College and Go Build Georgia, an effort to "educate young people and their parents about job opportunities that exist by acquiring craft skills."
He also expressed his appreciation of the extensive work of CLCP advocates.
"Thank you for what you do every day," he said. "You make a difference in the lives of people and that's the most important thing that any of us can do - to help improve the lives of fellow citizens."
Also at the meeting, the organization named Sandy Lipkowitz, executive director of READ, the 2012 Leader of Distinction for raising more than $37,000 last year for literacy efforts.
She received a $200 check to be used toward READ initiatives.