Canongate partners with Georgia first lady

by Celia Shortt

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Canongate Elementary School is partnering wtih 100 other organizations to start Get Georgia Reading–Campaign for Grade Level Reading. Recently they met with Georgia first lady Sandra Deal to launch the initiative. Front row, from left: Canongate third graders Maggie Monk, Luke Valladares, Vincent Brown, Caitlin Oakes, and Dalton Moore. Second row, from left: a young man from Atlanta, Canongate third graders Dana Gonzalez, Peyton Lowery, William Coffman, Emma Wiggins, Tucker Mask, Noah Watson, Kailey Brown, Brandon Sanchez, and Leah Oakes. Third row, from left: Surishtha Sehgal, NYT best-selling children’s book author; John Barge, State School superintendent; Rita Erves, Georgia PTA president; Amanda Milliner; Amy Jacobs, interim commissioner of Bright from the Start: Dept. of Early Care and Learning; Carmen Deedy, renowned author and storyteller; Arianne Weldon, Get Georgia Reading—Campaign for Grade-Level Reading director; Betsy Wagenhauser, Ferst Foundation president; Sandra Deal, first lady of Georgia; Emmett Shaffer, vice president for Education at United Way of Greater Atlanta; and Brenda Fitzgerald, commissioner, Dept. of Public Health. 


Canongate Elementary School recently partnered with Georgia first lady, Sandra Deal, and over 100 other organizations to launch Get Georgia Reading–Campaign for Grade-Level Reading.

“At Canongate, we value the importance of reading,” said Canongate Principal Betty Robinson. “Reading is the foundation for learning. It develops the mind; it allows children to discover new things; and it allows students to expand their vocabulary.”

Robinson said Canongate became involved with this initiative after one of its parents, William Valladares, told them of the opportunity.

This partnership is “committed to a common agenda to keep all kids on track to read by third grade. It has four main pillars, which will guide it – language nutrition, access, productive learning climate, and teacher preparation and effectiveness.

“We are at a critical point in time when it comes to preparing Georgia’s next generation of leaders,” said Arianne Weldon, director of Get Georgia Reading–Campaign for Grade-Level Reading in a press release announcing the initiative. “The first critical milestone for any child’s success in education is the ability to read by third grade, because this the moment a child transitions from learning to read, to reading to learn.”

According to Get Georgia Reading, nearly two thirds of children in Georgia are not reading proficiently by the end of third grade. In a study commissioned by the Annie E. Casey Foundation, children who cannot read by third grade are four times more likely to drop out of high school than proficient readers.

“We must make an active effort to increase the percentage of children reading well and independently at grade-level,” said Georgia first lady Sandra Deal in Get Georgia Reading’s press release. “By giving each and every child access to education at an early age, we are able to teach them the essential skills they need to build a foundation for all their future academic endeavors. Children are some of Georgia’s most capable and treasured resources, and it is critical that we pave their path to lifelong education with opportunities to learn.”

Through this program and others, Canongate hopes it will be another resource in reading for students.

“This was just another exciting way for Canongate to show how reading positively impacts student achievement,” said Robinson. “On a daily basis, we work extremely hard to foster a culture and classroom environment that promotes a wide array of research-based strategies such as differentiated instruction, flexible grouping, and CAFÉ strategies.”

Robinson hopes it will also continue to show how well Canongate students excel in reading.

Our efforts have proven to be very effective with CRCT reading scores being in the 98th to 99th percentile,” she said. “Furthermore, I can’t stress how imperative the role that our parents have played in making this possible. Our parents and teachers are extremely amazing! They support our efforts by reading with their children and encouraging them to read on a daily basis.”



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