VALDOSTA – For the third consecutive year, Valdosta Mayor John Gayle will visit 10 area child-care programs to share his love for reading with students in a program known as “Read Across Valdosta.” 

The local effort supports Gov. Nathan Deal’s goal to have all of Georgia’s children reading on grade level by third grade and is based on First Lady Sandra Deal’s “Read Across Georgia” initiative, according to city officials. 

The mayor will be reading “Behind the Little Red Door,” a new children’s book written by Georgia author Coy Bowles of the Zac Brown Band to observe the 25th birthday of Georgia’s pre-K program.

“Children model their reading habits by listening to adults,” Gayle said. “It is important for children to learn proper pronunciation, expression, pauses and cadence. It is our hope that Read Across Valdosta will encourage our children to read to others and possibly one day become young teachers themselves.”

The mayor will be joined by Jill O'Meara, who supervises the Early Education Empowerment Zones for Bright from the Start: Georgia Department of Early Care and Learning. 

“One of the simplest ways to boost a child's learning potential is by making books an integral part of their lives,” O'Meara said. “Reading to preschoolers and letting them read to you helps build stronger relationships, supports basic speech skills, and enhances future academic achievement.”

Read Across Valdosta kicks off Tuesday, June 12, and continues through Tuesday, July 10.

Participating child-care learning centers are Child Care Network #89, The Kids Depot, Jackson Heights Christian Academy, Open Doors Child Development Center, Bright Start Preschool and Learning Center, as well as family child-care learning homes operated locally by Alberta Watson, Elaine Day, Pamela Stokes, Gennatt Williams and Betty Dye.

All of the participating programs have been quality rated by the state, part of Georgia’s system to determine, improve and communicate the quality of programs that provide child care, according to city officials. 

Similar to rating systems for restaurants and hotels, quality rated assigns one, two or three stars to early education and school-age care programs that meet or exceed the minimum state requirements. 

By participating in Georgia’s voluntary quality rated program, programs make a commitment to work continuously to improve the quality of care they provide to children and families, according to city officials. For more information, visit

“There are so many ways to engage children in learning and enlarge their world; empowering children with the love of books is the best of all,” Gayle said. “I look forward to visiting all of these programs over the next several weeks.”


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