With a 15-year career in education, Georgia f irst lady Sandra Deal knows the importance of reading. That’s why she has made it a mission to visit Georgia schools and read to students while her husband, Gov. Nathan Deal, is in office.
Last week, she celebrated her 800th school visit since her husband took office in 2011. On Tuesday, Deal spent time at Blue Ridge, Greenbrier, Riverside, River Ridge, South Columbia and Stevens Creek elementary schools.
The former sixth-grade teacher read to River Ridge third-graders a book called Marshall, the Courthouse Mouse: A Tail of the U. S. Supreme Court – a fitting choice becausethe pupils are studying the branches of government. Deal offered side notes of information on the way government works and explained the duties of positions such as clerks, judges, juries.
According to educators, literacy is critical by third grade to ensure better performance in later grades.
“If they haven’t gotten those skills set by third grade then they are going to start missing out on a lot of content in other areas if they aren’t able to read the content there,” said Kelley Bell, the media specialist at River Ridge.
As a former educator and the mother of four children, Deal is aware of that. It is one reason school visits are important to her.
“We want to see them be good readers so when they get to high school they can finish high school and go on to college or technical school or whatever their life skill is that they want to develop,” Deal said. “That’s what teachers want to do, is really help their students learn, and I love doing that all over the state because I think it’s important for our children to have a good education so they are ready to get into the upper grades.”
The visits also help fulfill Deal’s passion for education.
“I miss that opportunity to be in the classroom and really get down and learn about special things and teach children and see their faces light up,” she said. “But I get that a lot when they listen to me read and they are really engaged, and they’re really learning what’s going on in the story.”