Pacesetter photo

Whitfield County's Birth to Eight Leadership effort was recently recognized with a Pacesetter award for promoting early literacy. One of its efforts is called Learning Academies, where Dalton State College education faculty and students go out to elementary schools and work with students and their families after school to help develop good reading skills. One such effort at Cedar Ridge Elementary School is shown here.

Dalton and Whitfield County have earned national recognition for their efforts to promote early literacy.

The Campaign for Grade-Level Reading (CGLR) recently named Dalton and Whitfield County as one of its Pacesetters. Just 32 communities received the award, which recognizes work to support early school success. The CGLR is a national nonprofit organization that works to have all children reading on at least grade level in third grade. Children who are not reading on at least grade level in third grade are four times more likely not to graduate high school than those students who are reading at third-grade level or higher at that age, studies show.

"Whitfield County and Dalton have been recognized as a whole," said Suzanne Harbin, director of the Early Childhood Initiative at the Community Foundation of Northwest Georgia. "That includes both school systems. But it's really for the whole community and the many organizations in our Birth to Eight Leadership effort that are working collectively toward getting our students reading on grade level by third grade."

The Birth to Eight Leadership Team includes more than 40 organizations, including Dalton State College, Georgia Northwestern Technical College, Dalton Public Schools, Whitfield County Schools, the Northwest Georgia Healthcare Partnership — Readers to Leaders, the Dalton-Whitfield County Public Library, Whitfield County-Dalton Day Care Center, the Greater Dalton Chamber of Commerce and Believe Greater Dalton.

“Through our collaborative initiatives, our community has developed models that provide children with the tools they need to be successful in school,” said Harbin. “Our partnerships and coalition building have allowed us to ensure professionals working with our most at-risk children have the tools proven to close the educational achievement gap. As this designation shows, we’ve made progress and need to continue to mobilize our community by working with our schools, city agencies, nonprofits, civic leaders and families.”

Cobb County was the only other community in Georgia selected for the award.

“Recognizing Pacesetters is our way of applauding and thanking the civic leaders, organizations and agencies that have joined forces to build brighter futures for children in their communities,” said Ralph Smith, managing director of CGLR, in a press release. “We are learning with them and from them what it takes to move the needle and close the gap. Mobilized communities — like these Pacesetters — are essential to achieving early school success.”

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