Photo by Patrick Yost
Local leaders are promoting the importance of literacy by participating in the Mayor’s Reading Club, a literacy program established by Georgia City Solutions, the nonprofit arm of the Georgia Municipal Association. So far, 59 mayors across Georgia have signed up to read to groups of local children at public libraries, schools, or other spaces.
Mayor Betty Cason listens to a young reader talk about his favorite book
“I participate because literacy is important to everything we do throughout life, including the economic development of our community,” said Mayor Betty Cason, who read recently to a rambunctious crowd of children at the Neva Lomason Library in Carrollton. “Reading is a vital part of developing our future, and through the Mayor’s Reading Club, local leaders can demonstrate the importance of literacy to the overall strength of our community.”
The club also encourages collaboration between a community and its county, area nonprofits, schools, public libraries, and local businesses by hosting reading events. When West Georgia Regional Library Director Stephen Houser learned about the initiative, he reached out to Mayor Cason to offer the Neva Lomason Library as a space where she could read to kids.
“The Mayor’s Reading Club is a great civic literacy initiative and the library is a vital community hub,” said Stephen Houser. “We felt this was a perfect fit. Our goal of working with Mayor Cason on this initiative is to educate children on the importance of local government and to provide a platform for her to tell the stories of the people who serve in our local government.”
Georgia City Solutions has commissioned a children’s book series that mayors can read to help teach young readers about how local government works. The first book, “Georgia Caroline Visits City Hall,” follows a class on a field trip to City Hall.
When Mayor Cason read the book in Carrollton, she brought bobble-head printouts of the city’s local leaders taped to popsicle sticks, which elicited laughs from the kids as she explained each person’s role.
According to Kay Love, managing director of Georgia City Solutions, literacy is a topic that has become very important to cities, not just from an educational standpoint, but also economic and workforce development. “Mayors are in a unique position to encourage and support young readers in the community and teach them about how their local government works,” said Love.
“When Georgia Public Library Service heard about this wonderful program, we immediately asked how libraries could get involved,” said Julie Walker, vice chancellor for libraries and archives and state librarian. “Libraries are natural gathering places and are happy to host the mayors as they read. Many libraries reached out proactively to their area mayors to encourage them to participate and to read at the library.”
Each participating library received a starter kit including a copy of “Georgia Caroline Visits City Hall,” a Mayor’s Reading Club proclamation template, an implementation and resource guide, and a suggested reading list. Libraries typically add activities to the reading event that provide additional learning opportunities.
“If you are a proficient reader, there is no limit to what you can do,” said Walker. “This is crucially important work that benefits the entire community. Having the mayor involved stresses the importance of reading. The more they are seen prioritizing reading and literacy, the better it is for everyone.”
Azalea Regional Library System participates in the club and has hosted several mayors for reading events across the six counties it serves.
“The mayor is a key figure in any community, and when elected officials get involved and engaged with reading, it sends a message that literacy and learning are important,” said Stacy Brown, the system’s executive director. “This program brings our local officials into the libraries where they are able to see, firsthand, how taxpayer funds are being effectively utilized to positively impact the lives of all residents. We will always support and encourage initiatives to increase and promote literacy for youth, and this program is a win-win for the entire community.”
To learn more about the Mayor’s Reading Club or to sign up, visit www.gacities.com.