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Gordon, Reading Ranger, has strong passion for reading

Becoming a grand marshal for the Sweet Land of Liberty Parade is not only an honor for Gail Gordon, but is perfectly in sync with the work she does with children on a daily basis.

Gordon, more affectionately known as “Reading Ranger” when she scopes the county in the Jungle Bus bookmobile with Nicole Kennedy, has an unshakeable passion for teaching the county’s youngest members the importance of reading.

“I’ve always had a passion and love for children,” Gordon said.

Gordon’s passion for reading started long before she ever stepped foot on the Jungle Bus.

Gordon previously worked in the Coweta County School System as a kindergarten teacher, moving on to the Troup County School System, teaching kindergarten once more, and then becoming an elementary and a high school counselor before taking time off to stay at home.

As she was headed back to apply to work in the Troup County School System, she accepted an opening for the Success by 6 Coordinator’s job under United Way of West Georgia roughly four years ago.

It was through this job that she met Kennedy at a meeting, and they both brainstormed the idea for the Jungle Bus to create an accessible route for children to obtain books.

When COVID hit the area, Gordon and Kennedy had to pause their extensive operations, but still managed to continue their goals and passed out books to the community.

“We would go places and set up tables and instead of letting them [touch] a book, we kind of just gave them one,” Gordon said. “[In 2020], we gave away almost 5,000 books to the community.”

Gordon added that children in the area may have lost the pathway that gets them to read early due to COVID, but that it’s only made her and Kennedy work harder.

“We feel like they have missed out a lot the last year, just from not being at school and not socializing and not having that structure,” Gordon said.

“It wasn’t beneficial, but that’s part of our goal to keep encouraging reading and keep getting books out.”

She has always said that parents are their child’s first teachers, and the first years of life are critical in a child’s future success.

“I’ve personally been to headstarts, early learning centers and parent meetings and I may ask ‘how many books do you have in your home’ and it’s amazing to me when many say they have none,” Gordon said.