Annetta Scantlin, of Georgia Family Connection Partnership, helped facilitate the Jan. 25 Get Meriwether Reading planning session at the Meriwether County School System offices in Greenville. The planning committee of community stakeholders did group brainstorming and worked in break-out sessions coming up with ideas to get the word out to the community, and especially to parents of young children, on the importance of early reading interaction. Ideas ranged from family education nights to creating talking-point presentations for civic club meetings and short videos about the early learning literacy effort.

“Workforce development begins in the cradle.” That idea from a recent business development session struck Meriwether Chamber of Commerce president and Get Meriwether Reading planning committee co-chair Carolyn McKinley, shown addressing stakeholders at the Jan. 25 Get Meriwether Reading meeting at the Meriwether County School System offices.

Get Meriwether Reading Co-chair Rhonda Fuller, executive director of Meriwether Family Connection, shows the countywide literacy initiative’s new “Read 2 Me” poster, unveiled at the Jan. 25 planning meeting with community stakeholders.

Meriwether leaders push effort to get local youngsters reading
Jan. 29, 2019


Meriwether County leaders want a prosperous community for local residents, where people have opportunities to work, live and play, that gives young people a reason to stay – and they believe it all begins with early reading success.
The new Get Meriwether Reading initiative held a second planning committee session Jan. 25 at the Meriwether County Board of Education offices in Greenville, gathering a spectrum of representatives from county and city governments, social services, educators, and even a group of Manchester Middle School student service team members to brainstorm how to accomplish the initiative’s goal: assuring that Meriwether youngsters are proficient in reading by the third grade.
“Workforce development begins in the cradle.” Meriwether Chamber of Commerce president and Get Meriwether Reading planning committee co-chair Carolyn McKinley was struck by the idea from a publication at a recent meeting.
“We want people to have opportunities to work. We want people to live here. We want young people to have a reason to stay here,” McKinley said. That won’t happen, she said, ”if we don’t have children who grow up here and at the end of their senior year in high school are ready to go off to a career or secondary education. We need a skilled workforce.”
The target group for Get Meriwether Reading is children from birth to three years old. Currently there are children showing up in preschool and kindergarten without the skills to be proficient in school.
Being proficient in reading by third grade is key. That is the point where students switch from “learning to read” to “reading to learn,” say leaders from the statewide Get Georgia Reading campaign. The state goal is to have that accomplished by 2020.
Among the four “pillars” of the reading proficiency campaign is encouraging “language nutrition.” That means talking with and reading to infants and toddlers. All young children should receive abundant, language-rich adult-child interactions, which are as critical for brain development as healthy food is for physical growth, according to the Get Georgia Reading campaign.
Work organizing Get Meriwether Reading has been ongoing since January 2018, said initiative co-chair Rhonda Fuller, executive director of Meriwether Family Connection. The first planning meeting with community leaders was held Nov. 9 and the application for designation was submitted to Georgia Family Connection Partnership Nov. 30. Word of approval came Dec. 7 that Meriwether County is now designated as a Get Georgia Reading Campaign Community.
Some ideas for a slogan were kicked around and Ryan Moore of DFM Graphics in Greenville developed a design for the new “Read 2 Me” slogan poster unveiled at last week’s meeting, Fuller said. The poster will be distributed in a large window-cling format for local elementary schools as well as a smaller poster and possibly T-shirts or other advertising items for distribution.
The Meriwether area Georgia Power office gave an initial $1,000 to help kick off the literacy initiative and recently presented a check for an additional $11,000 – for a total $12,000 commitment to the effort.
“Get Meriwether Reading will have a positive impact on child reading proficiency by assuring families have access to materials and supplies that will assure there is positive learning and language nutrition regarding reading for children ages 0-8,” said Meriwether County School System Superintendent Robert Griffin who was on hand for the Jan. 25 planning session.
“Meriwether County Schools is committed to partnering with feeder daycares and agencies to assure excellent teacher preparation and instructional effectiveness are an integral component of Get Meriwether Reading,” he said. “Spreading the word about this opportunity is imperative. As Superintendent of Education, I plan reach out to leaders, churches, daycares, civic groups, and others in an effort to promote Get Meriwether Reading.”
According to McKinley, “One of the most important components of work for any Chamber of Commerce is workforce development. Without a skilled workforce, our employers cannot be successful and if students lack grade-level reading proficiency it will take a cumulative and negative toll on their future ability to be successful in the workplace and in the community.”
“Moving forward with the Get Meriwether Reading Campaign is one of the most significant and encouraging steps our community has ever taken,” McKinley continued. “We owe it to the children of our community to give them an environment where they can grow up to be successful and contributing members of our society. Our collective goal is to create an environment where all children are ready to read when they arrive at pre-K. Using the language of ‘creating an environment’ means we recognize the necessity of involving our entire community. We must reach parents, educators, business leaders, churches, libraries and all the agencies that provide services to families and make sure we create a sense of urgency.” 
“The good news is that we have a dynamic coalition that includes representatives from all these groups and they are enthusiastic about the work ahead,” McKinley said. “With access to technical assistance and experts in the field we will have at our disposal the tools and resources to reach children from the time they are born. Since we have been officially designated as a Get Georgia Reading community we will utilize a common agenda based on research based pillars that will provide a framework for action. Our future depends on creating a community where our children can be successful and it will take all of us working together. The Meriwether County Chamber of Commerce is proud to be part of this initiative.”

“Thank you for coming today,” Fuller told meeting attendees. “Each one of you has been selected to participate today because you are valuable stakeholders in our GMR initiative.” She introduced Annetta Scantlin, of Georgia Family Connection Partnership, who helped facilitate the planning session.
The planning committee did group brainstorming and worked in break-out sessions coming up with ideas to get the word out to the community, and especially to parents of young children, on the importance of early reading interaction. Ideas ranged from family education nights to creating talking-point presentations for civic club meetings and short videos about the early learning literacy effort.
----------------
For more information contact:
Rhonda Fuller, Executive Director 
Meriwether County Family Connection
17234 Roosevelt Hwy, Bldg. A
Greenville, GA 30222
Phone (706) 672-4016
Cell (706) 977-8485 
Fax (706) 672-4342

OR

Carolyn McKinley
Meriwether County Chamber of Commerce & Tourism
P.O. Box 9
Warm Springs, GA 31830
http://meriwethercountychamber.org
https://www.facebook.com/MeriwetherCountyChamber/
https://www.facebook.com/meriwethertourism/
706-655-2558
706-975-0622