Georgia First Lady Sandra Deal, along with Georgia Department of Early Care and Learning Commissioner Bobby Cagle, left, and her husband, Georgia Gov. Nathan Deal, visited Pine Street Elementary School's prekindergarten class led by Candace Frazier on Monday morning. Staff Photo: Sue Ann Kuhn-Smith
CONYERS -- Pine Street Elementary School welcomed some very special visitors Monday morning.
Gov. Nathan Deal, First Lady Sandra Deal and Georgia Department of Early Care and Learning Commissioner Bobby Cagle visited the school's prekindergarten class to kick off "Read Across Georgia" month.
The school was the first stop on the Read Across Georgia tour, which also will visit other schools around the state this month.
It's "an effort to encourage young people to learn to read and the importance of reading," Gov. Deal said. "It's important because it's the key that unlocks the door to your future."
At the event, Sandra Deal read her husband's poem, "Learning to Read," and a book, "Who I'd Like to Be."
Sandra Deal said that 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 provided the funds to give a book to the classroom and one to the school library.
"We're proud to have them see what Rockdale County is all about -- early learning is very important in Rockdale," said Rockdale County Public Schools Superintendent Richard Autry.
Mrs. 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 made the students promise to learn how to read at school and continue practicing reading at home to their parents, grandparents and siblings.
"For every (career), you have to know how to read," she said. "Practice until you get really good at it."
The First Lady also visited South Salem Elementary School in Newton County later 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 Mrs. Deal and Cagle. Downloadable book lists, bookmarks and certificates for storytellers are available at www.gov.georgia.gov.