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Reading isnt a reach for students during Pre-K Week
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State Sen. Jack Hill reads to pre-kindergarten students at Marlow Elementary School. - photo by Photo by Paul Floeckher

They needed a stepladder to reach the check-out counter, but a group of young children received their first library cards Monday.

Library cards were issued to students in the pre-kindergarten program at South Effingham High School. They can use the cards at any Live Oak Public Libraries branch in Effingham, Chatham and Liberty counties.

“It’s just a great experience to start out with a card, knowing they can go to the library and check out books,” said Bea Saba, Live Oak’s coordinator for Effingham libraries. “It’s a learning experience for them to begin that young and grow into readers.”

It was a big day for the pre-K students. Prior to them receiving library cards and selecting books to check out from the SEHS media center, guests from the community read books to the children.

The program combined the end of Library Card Sign-up Month with the start of Georgia Pre-K Week. Saba visited SEHS twice in September to sign up high school students for library cards, and she and school media specialist Catherine Olivier decided to expand it to include the youngest children on campus.

“We love libraries and we try to get as many people as possible interested in reading and to be life-long readers. That’s our goal,” Olivier said.

Although children often don’t start reading until first grade, the pre-K students at South Effingham already love books, according to teacher Beverly Browning. She encourages her students to “go on an adventure and use (their) imagination” when books are read to them.

“It doesn’t matter what they’re doing,” Browning said, “every time they hear me say, ‘OK, reading time,’ they run to the carpet and sit — and they just sit glued.”

Saba read “Chicka Chicka Boom Boom,” a book about the alphabet, to the children, and involved them in reciting the book’s rhyming lines. With a 5-year-old of her own, Saba often reads books at home.

“Reading to kids at an early age is the key,” Saba said. “Even though you think that they may not be listening or knowing what you’re reading, it is key to learning how to read and to be able to be good at what they do in school.”

Saba’s story was just one the SEHS pre-K students enjoyed. State Rep. Bill Hitchens read “Green Eggs and Ham,” Effingham County Schools Superintendent Randy Shearouse read “If You Give a Cat a Cupcake” and county Commissioner Vera Jones read “Pirates Go to School,” which she said is her grandson’s favorite book.

Hitchens went to Ebenezer Elementary the following day and read “Llama Llama Holiday Drama” to pre-K students there, while state Sen. Jack Hill visited Marlow Elementary for Pre-K Week and read “Pete the Cat and His Four Groovy Buttons.”

“It really is great fun,” Hill said. “When you see the little bright, shining faces and the quick minds and their boundless energy, it makes you really appreciate where we are in our schools and what we’re providing in pre-K.”

Though state funding to many Georgia school districts has been cut in recent years, Hill hopes that will be remedied as the economy improves. He pointed out that 53 percent of state funds are devoted to education, with about 42 percent of it earmarked for grades K-12.

“Whether it’s what everybody wants it to be and whether it’s what it needs to be is certainly up for some people’s debate, but the truth is it’s the most important thing we do,” Hill said. “I admire school systems and schools for doing more with less and really keeping the faith, and I admire everybody who’s involved in education.”

Pre-K student Carter Futch summed it up as he walked out of the SEHS media center, with his new library card and checked-out book in hand.

“I was having fun in there,” he said.