On Tuesday, March 2, Marty Kemp, wife of Georgia Gov. Brian Kemp, joined Dawson County Middle School students and staff via Zoom to read one of her favorite books for “Read Across America” day.
Dozens of middle school classrooms joined in on the Zoom event, as well as Dawson County Middle School Principal Randi Sagona, Superintendent Damon Gibbs and several other school leaders.
Kemp read “My Very Favorite Book in the Whole Wide World” by Malcolm Mitchell to the students. The book follows Henley, a boy who hates reading and goes on a quest to find his favorite book to share with his class for a homework assignment.
After reading the book to the students, Kemp shared her memory of finding her own favorite book to read when she was in middle school.
“My challenges were words that were too big or too long, and I love animals so I looked for more illustrations,” Kemp said. “I just think this is a really great, fun book that’s so important to read — maybe that can be y’all’s homework is to bring your very favorite book in the whole wide world in.”
Karen Westbrook, Media Specialist at Dawson County Middle School said this year marks the third year that the middle school has invited “Celebrity Readers” to Read Across America Day, which falls on the birthday of well-known children’s author Dr. Seuss.
“All elementary schools celebrate with some form of reading celebration, so when I started here I decided I wanted to do something similar at the middle school level,” Westbrook said. “In the past, we have had judges, our sheriff, principals from other schools, business owners, etc. — the event is designed to encourage reading in children.”
Due to COVID-19, the school was unable to have guest readers attend the event in person, but Westbrook said that through working with Kemp’s assistant she was able to schedule the Zoom event instead, an event that students and staff alike had been looking forward to.
“It was such an honor to have the First Lady take the time to read with our staff and students today,” Westbrook said. “It is evident that the First Lady and her team are committed to our schools and causes such as Read Across America. I hope that students are encouraged by Lady Kemp’s message, that every book has the potential to become a favorite.”
During the Zoom call, Gibbs thanked Kemp for not only her willingness to join the staff and students for Read Across America day, but also for her and her husband’s support of education in Georgia.
“I just wanna say I’m very grateful for all the work that our folks are doing in our school system, and we’re grateful to Governor Kemp and First Lady Kemp for their support of public K-12 education,” Gibbs said.
As another part of the Read Across America celebration, Westbrook said that the middle school’s library has been restocked with several new spotlight books for the students to check out and read.
“Thanks to ESPLOST we have a whole collection of new books on display, so as part of our Read Across America celebration I’d like to invite you in to come and browse and look at our spotlight books,” Westbrook said to the students. “One of the things that we did this year is we invited students to recommend books for purchase, so some of these books are books that actual students recommended and they’re out there waiting for you to read.”
Kemp added that she would like to send a copy of the book she’d read aloud to the students to add to their library.
Dawson County Middle School Principal Randi Sagona said that she hopes that Kemp’s visit encourages the students at the school to spend time reading and finding their own favorite books.
“Reading is a critical life skill for our students, and having the First Lady not only choose her favorite book to read but also give our students insight into how she chose books to read at their age sends the message to our students that she is invested in helping them develop a love of reading,” Sagona said.
Kemp said that she was glad to have been invited to share her favorite book with the students, and that she looks forward to continuing to partner with local schools in the future.
“Thank you so much for having me — I know all this virtual learning is new but y’all have got it down pat,” Kemp said. “This has been great for me, and hopefully I can come see y’all in person someday.”