Georgia First Lady Sandra Deal visited Smiley Elementary School in Long County on Thursday to promote her “Read Across Georgia” initiative. After she was introduced by Principal David Edwards, Deal spoke to approximately 400 pre-K and kindergarten students about the importance of reading.
“We have to start doing what is right now and begin thinking about what we want to do when we are bigger. … The governor and I want you to know how important it is to read so when you grow up. If you want to be an astronaut or a policeman or anything else, you can,” Deal said.
The first lady read “Who I’d Like to Be” by Elizabeth Brown, who was 90 years old when she authored it. Deal told her young audience that the pictures were illustrated by Brown’s 8-year-old great-granddaughter, Alexandria Elizabeth Brown. She also told the students that the book would be made available to each of them.
“We’re going to give each of your teachers a copy of the book, and one will be put in your library. That way, you can check it out and take it home and read it to your Momma and Daddy,” Deal said.
After she finished reading, Deal spoke with other guests, including Superintendent Dr. Robert Waters and Sheriff Cecil Nobles, who both thanked her for visiting.
Deal, who is a former sixth-grade teacher, said she feels that stressing the importance of reading at an early age is crucial to children’s development.
“If we want to change our society, we have to begin with our little ones and tell them just how important reading is. That is the only way that we are going to lower our prison rate and increase our graduation rate,” she said.
Deal’s goal is to read to children in all of Georgia’s 180 school systems.
“We are so excited that the first lady came to our school. Anytime somebody of her status visits our school, our students and staff are a little more excited. We also are thankful to her for what she is doing in promoting reading; that’s the most important thing,” Edwards said.