Booking the waiting room

Published 12:00 am Sunday, October 9, 2016

To develop lifelong readers earlier in life, the United Way Women’s Leadership Council recently approved a grant for the Troup County School System to purchase early learning books for the Pediatric Community Collaborative program.

This outreach targets local pediatricians because they see children for immunizations before children even start their first day of school.

Nicole Kennedy, parental engagement coordinator for TCSS said, “We see where students starting kindergarten are not reading at the level they should. We had to be strategic and think of a way to reach students who have not yet made it to Troup County Schools. That is how the collaborative was born between the school system, Success by Six, and local pediatricians.”

The pilot program, focusing on children ages 3 to 5, began this summer at The Children’s Clinic in LaGrange.

“Before we were approached about the partnership, I was purchasing books out of my pocket for the waiting rooms,” said Amy Shepherd, an immunization nurse who has worked at the clinic for nine years. “Kids would ask could they take the books home, but they couldn’t because it was for the waiting area. So, when Nicole contacted us, I knew this was something we needed to do.”

Within three weeks of a child receiving the first book, the office was calling Kennedy for more.

The program seemed like a good mix of community partners, according to Shepherd and Kennedy. The school system, which caters to pre-k through 12th-grade students, needed access to the 3-to-5 year-old age group.

“We know these medical professionals are not full-time educators. They are dealing with immunizations and helping children stay healthy,” Kennedy said. “We didn’t want it to be a disruption to their daily routines, so our thought process was if they just said, ‘Twenty minutes a day can pave the way’ during the pediatrician visit, then that was enough to help families understand that reading 20 minutes a day can set the stage for reading later in life.”

In addition to the book for the child, parents receive colorful and easy-to-read literacy brochures that focus on developmental milestones and quick tips for expanding reading and vocabulary for pre-school aged children.

Kennedy was shocked and excited by the quick call for more books from Shepherd. Due to the rapid turnaround, she knew more funds would be needed to sustain the program.

While seeking a grant for the PCC, she heard about the WLC’s focus on early literacy. As a part of United Way, they provide grants for early learning initiatives in Troup County. Kennedy applied and was later awarded a one-time $2,000 grant through the WLC.

Stephanie Preston, a member of the WLC, said the community need is there and the organization, along with Success by Six, headed by former educator Gail Gordon, have tried different avenues for outreach.

Preston also stated the funds for early literacy grants through the WLC are provided from proceeds of the annual Merry Market event which is scheduled for Oct. 21-22 at the Callaway Conference Center. The theme for the event is Shop with a Purpose, because proceeds are funneled back into Troup County organizations that provide early learning opportunities.

So far, more than 400 books and brochures have been placed in the hands of early learners and parents who visit The Children’s Clinic. Now, the pilot has extended to two additional pediatric offices in the county thanks to the collaboration between the school system, the WLC, United Way, Success by Six, Troup County Health Department, and the LaGrange Women, Infants and Children program.

To learn more about Merry Market LaGrange or to purchase tickets, visit To learn more about Troup County School System, visit and the Troup County School System Facebook page.

Amy Shepherd, an immunization nurse at The Children’s Clinic in LaGrange, shows one of the books the clinic gives to young children to encourage early reading. Shepherd, an immunization nurse at The Children’s Clinic in LaGrange, shows one of the books the clinic gives to young children to encourage early reading.

Submitted report

Story submitted by the Troup County Board of Education.