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Volunteers make a splash for literacy
A-Leap for Literacy pic3
Jamie Gilstrap with Gilstrap Exterminating was named the Best Individual Leaper at Saturdays Leap for Literacy fundraiser. - photo by Michele Hester Dawson County News

The temperature for Lake Lanier was a brisk 40 degrees on Saturday morning, ideal weather, some say, for the first swim of 2016.

"Oh my gosh," squealed Mary Bob Fox as the chilling waves crashed against her toes. "Oh, that is so cold."

Fox joined dozens of literacy buffs for the sixth annual Leap for Literacy to benefit Wee Books, a local early reading initiative that focuses on children from birth to 5 years of age.

"I am so excited to see so many people here. Thank you, Lord, for the good weather," said Sue Poynter, chairwoman. "Wee Books is a phenomenal organization. We need to get these children introduced to books, enjoying books and reading. With all the technology out, children can still benefit so deeply from books."

Wee Books, a program of the Ferst Foundation for Childhood Literacy, is currently serving about 750 children, who receive an age appropriate book each month until they turn five years old. The books are free to participants, though fundraisers like the lake leap, support the cause.

First Foundation President Betsy Wagerhauser attended Saturday's event.

She praised the volunteers taking the plunge and all the community for supporting the effort to improve childhood literacy.

"These are kids, that without these books, without your support, would be entering school up to two years behind their peers," she said. "And what happens when those kids enter school behind, they stay behind and they struggle, and by third grade if they're not reading proficiently, they are four times more likely to drop out of school.

"Without your support, this wouldn't be able to happen. what we see here is the support, what we don't really see, and I wish you could, is those kids that are in kindergarten, first grade, second grade, that are learning, that are not struggling, that are not behind, that actually have a real future."

Emcee Warren King quoted a recent report released by the Dawson County School System that he said proves the positive impact on local education.

"There's a report from the school system that when they give entrance examinations for kids coming into the schools, they have found that the children that are participating in this program are more reading ready and will achieve more as they move into school because they were part of this program," he said.