Group hopes new Georgia governor will join literacy movement
Updated: Jan 7, 2019
By Maria Saporta – Contributing Writer, Atlanta Business Chronicle
Oct. 26, 2018
The Georgia Literacy Commission held its last meeting on Oct. 18, but its work is far from done.
At a meeting held at UBS offices in Buckhead, commission members and guests honored their co-chairs: Georgia First Lady Sandra Deal; Atlanta Gas Light’s Wendell Dallas; retired BellSouth executive Phil Jacobs; and Georgia Public Broadcasting’s Teya Ryan.
Commission members presented their legislative and policy priorities for the 2019 Georgia legislative session.
They included increasing state subsidies for quality child care; requiring all new teachers to be trained to identify struggling readers; providing state funding to increase the number of literacy coaches statewide; adding more adult literacy instructors and improving access for those who need services; and expanding the tax credit available for employers offering GED preparation to include a tax credit for adult basic education.
Commission members have briefed gubernatorial candidates Brian Kemp and Stacey Abrams with hopes that either one of them will implement the recommendations. The plan, provided it’s endorsed by the new governor and the incoming legislature, is for the Georgia Literacy Commission to morph into the Georgia Literacy Coordinating Council to move its agenda.
“Georgia is on the map now for literacy,” observed Joy Hawkins, director of Literacy for All, which has been coordinating the work of the Commission.
“We call it a literacy movement,” Dallas said. “We started this, and we don’t want it to stop. We want to institutionalize these efforts. Statewide coordination is needed. We are not through.”
Co-chair Jacobs, however, shared a dose of reality with the group.
“When we started this work, one in six Georgians were functionally illiterate. Today, it’s still one in six,” said Jacobs, who tried to inspire Commission members to keep working. “We have an opportunity of a lifetime. This is certainly the beginning; not the end.”
A special moment during the gathering was when Sandra Deal was joined at the front of the room by Malcom Mitchell, founder of the Share the Magic Foundation. Mitchell, who had a successful football career, recognized he was a “struggling reader” when he was in college. The Georgia native is now writing children’s books to encourage young people to read.
Deal has been on a crusade to do just that. She has read to more than 900 schools – at least one in every one of Georgia’s 159 counties.
“The goal is 1,000, and I think we can do it,” said Deal, whose husband will leave office in January. Trying to instill a love of reading “is why I read to little ones all over the state.”