United Way gets early learning update

Published 4:31 pm Wednesday, March 22, 2017

Members of the Women’s Leadership Council of the United Way of West Georgia got an update on some statewide early learning efforts Tuesday.

One thing parents and teachers need to remember, according to Arianne Weldon, director of Get Georgia Reading, is that getting your child to read at grade level may involve more than just sitting down with a book every night or trusting the teacher to get your child reading.

Factors like the climate of the school and whether your child attends every day can make a difference.

“Everyone has a role,” Weldon said. In fact, social competence skills learned in kindergarten, language and nutrition may mean more for getting a child to read at grade level than just reading along.

Only two-thirds of Georgia children are reading at their grade level, which is in line with the national average, Weldon said. And third grade is the pivotal year.

“Third grade is when you start reading to learn, rather than reading to learn to read,” she said. “It doesn’t matter the subject area, you need that reading skill. Even math depends on reading. Reading skill is a big factor of eighth grade math success. You need to be able to read and understand the word problems.”

Lack of reading literacy can lead to poor health, discipline problems, teen pregnancy and a high drop out rate.


Get Georgia Reading was founded in 2013 by Gov. Nathan Deal and his wife, Sandra, who has been one of the biggest cheerleaders for the program, Weldon said. The program has involved all the usual participants but has looked outside the normal players to involve child welfare workers and those involved in the state Medicaid program.

“This is not just on the backs of teachers,” said Weldon. When looking at access issues, one county in Georgia began a GED program. It was held, however, in the same schools many of the potential students had dropped out of. The county instead started a home-based GED program which has seen much success.


To help children get reading, Weldon suggested four tips for parents and other educators – starting with babies.


  • Talk, read, sing and play with children, especially babies, all the time.
  • Help promote access to healthy foods, healthy environments and healthy development
  • Help make children feel safe, supported and ready to learn at home and school
  • Support developmentally informed approaches to teaching and learning for ages birth to 8.


The Magnolia Society Women’s Leadership Council of the United Way promotes the early learning programs of the United Way and is sponsoring LaGrange Has Talent, a fundraising talent competition, to be held in November.