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Rep. Atwood visits class
Sitting in a small chair and surrounded by mostly 4-year-olds at Oglethorpe Point Elementary School on St. Simons Island Thursday, state Rep. Alex Atwood brought the popular children's character Pete the Cat to life.

Reading from the book "Pete the Cat: I Love My White Shoes," he explained to the pre-kindergarten class how the feline continued moving no matter what got on his new shoes.

Amid the clapping of little hands, a smiling Atwood acknowledged he has the book just about memorized. It's one of his favorites to read to schoolchildren and to his own grandchildren, he said.

He used the opportunity to convey the importance of reading.

"Reading is the basic foundation of any child's education, and that's why we're emphasizing this to get them enthusiastic, to get them interested," he said. "You can go to a book and the world opens up to you."

Atwood, R-St. Simons Island, stopped by the school as part of Georgia Pre-K Week, sponsored by Voices for Georgia's Children and its partners to recognize prekindergarten centers and classes for work in early childhood learning.

The state's prekindergarten program, funded by the Georgia Lottery, is marking its 20th year in the state.

Because of limited funding, Glynn County still has a waiting list of children whose parents want them in the public school system's prekindergarten program.

It's a shortfall that could be addressed soon.

"The governor issued a report last week that said if we stay on track, we're going to have a $600 million surplus," Atwood said, crossing his fingers. "If we stay on track, he has already dedicated in his speeches more funding for education across the board, and I think it's needed. I think there should be room for pre-k expansion. I hope so."

Atwood says early education and literacy initiatives can pay dividends in the long run. "We've got to have an educated work force," he said.

To have that type of work force, though, will require more than teachers teaching children.

"(Schools) need the parents involved with these children, reading to them at home," Atwood said. "They need to be exposed to the wonders of reading. We've got to help our educators. They can't do it by themselves.

"We can't just pass it off to these hard-working teachers. The parents cannot relieve themselves of the responsibility."

* Reporter Sarah Lundgren writes about education and other local topics. Contact her at, on Facebook or at 265-8320, ext. 322.

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