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Georgia first lady visits South Salem

Georgia First Lady Sandra Deal, along with Georgia Department of Early Care and Learning Commissioner Bobby Cagle, visited South Salem Elementary School's prekindergarten class led by Katie Braselton and Laura Traylor on Monday morning. Staff Photo: Sue Ann Kuhn-Smith

Georgia First Lady Sandra Deal, along with Georgia Department of Early Care and Learning Commissioner Bobby Cagle, visited South Salem Elementary School's prekindergarten class led by Katie Braselton and Laura Traylor on Monday morning. Staff Photo: Sue Ann Kuhn-Smith

COVINGTON — South Salem Elementary School welcomed some very special visitors Monday morning.

First lady Sandra Deal and Georgia Department of Early Care and Learning Commissioner Bobby Cagle visited the school’s prekindergarten classes to kick off Read Across Georgia month.

“Reading opens doors; it helps us have good jobs … and helps us have good opportunities,” Deal said.

The school was the second stop on the Read Across Georgia tour, which also will visit other schools around the state this month, in an effort to encourage young people to learn to read and to teach them the importance of reading.

At the event, Sandra Deal read her husband Gov. Nathan Deal’s poem, “Learning to Read,” and a book, “Who I’d Like to Be.”

Sandra Deal said after teachers started calling her to read to their classes, she searched for a Georgia author and found 90-year-old Elizabeth Brown, who wrote the book and had it illustrated by her 8-year-old great-granddaughter Alexandria Elizabeth Brown.

AT&T paid the funds to give a book to the classroom and one to the school library.

“We’re very excited and honored,” school Principal Holly Dubois said. “We have a fabulous pre-K program.”

Sandra Deal has visited 100 counties and 170 schools over the past year to show parents, teachers and mentors the importance of proficient reading, and she plans to visit more this year.

“We must increase the percentage of children reading well and independently at grade-level because this lays the groundwork for all of their future academic and career endeavors,” she said in a press release.

She told the students to learn to read at school and continue practicing reading at home “to anyone who will listen.”

“We need to be able to read” for any career, she said.

The first lady, along with the governor, also visited Pine Street Elementary School in Rockdale County earlier in the day Monday.

DECAL will sponsor Georgia Reads Aloud Day on March 19, when parents, child care providers and the entire community are encouraged to make a special effort to read to children of all ages.

Classrooms are also invited to enter a contest for the “Most Books Read” between the hours of 7 a.m. and 6 p.m. that day. The winning classroom will receive a special visit and reading from Sandra Deal and Cagle. Downloadable book lists, bookmarks and certificates for storytellers are available at www.gov.georgia.gov.