Live, Learn, Play for All

Easter Seals is the largest provider of inclusive learning in the country. What exactly does inclusive instruction mean, though?

Inclusive instruction means recognizing, accommodating, and meeting the learning needs of all students. It means acknowledging that all students have a range of individual learning needs and are members of diverse communities. Most importantly, inclusive teaching avoids pigeonholing students into specific groups with predictable and fixed approaches to learning.


ESNG introduced inclusive learning at our child development centers back in 1992. The innovative program soon became a model for the state of Georgia. Today, we educate and care for 1,503 children, 30% of whom have a disability. We have partnered with Atlanta Public Schools (APS) to offer children with disabilities an inclusive learning environment. There are five collaborative classrooms in our Guice and Sylvan Hills centers with two APS special education teachers and two ESNG teachers.

What are the benefits of inclusive learning?

Children learn from each other. 
Clearly, the children do not know their friends have special needs or require any accommodations. They just see their friends. Children with special needs see typically developing children following directions, singing, dancing, and talking. It becomes a part of their everyday activity and soon will follow those behaviors.

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Children learn to be leaders.
Children with special needs and typically developing children have classroom jobs. They set and clear tables, lead lines, and clean up together. One teacher says, “This year, Kayla has really become a leader. She was in the program last year and knows exactly what to do. She loves setting the table and telling her friends that lunch is ready. I can definitely tell that her confidence has improved remarkably since last year.”

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Children learn from structure.
We encourage families to keep their children in the program for multiple years to get the most out of it. One of the reasons is because children thrive from structure, especially kids with special needs. They know what to expect and what is expected of them. A teacher told me, “Caleb used to throw his toys when it was time to clean up. It took him a couple of months to get used to the schedule, but he got it. Now, he hears the clean up song, grabs the toy bin and puts the toys away.”

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Children learn from play.
That is to say, though, it’s not fun and playful. Children with disabilities – just like children without disabilities – learn from running, throwing, and dancing. Children with low muscle tone can gain strengthen by running on the playground. Children with sensory issues can get used to different textures in a sandbox. And, music helps children with behavioral issues learn to follow directions.

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Children learn empathy.
One of the beauties of childhood is they often don’t see the differences in people. Children in inclusive classrooms see children in wheelchairs and know that they cannot use their legs. Teachers and kids talk about it and kids know that they need to help their friends who need it. Four-year-old children may not know the importance of what they are learning now, but as they meet people with different abilities and thoughts, they will know how to help.

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More info:
The benefits of inclusive learning. One family’s story –


Tips to Make School Transition Easier

I know it’s hard to believe, but the new school year is right around the corner (if it hasn’t started yet). ESNG’s Early Childhood Mental Health Manager Dr. Juanita Brigman offers some advice to help you and your young child have an easy transition as he/she starts preschool.

Weeks before starting school:

  1. If your child had a later bedtime during the summer, help him/her get into a preschool schedule by keeping to his school bedtime about 2 weeks before school starts.
  2. Read books about starting school. Here is a list of recommendations.
  3. Visit the school and let the child tour the classroom and meet the teacher.

The night before the first day:

  1. Let your child choose (weather- and school-appropriate) clothes for her first day.
  2. Pick a bedtime that gives your child a good night’s rest before the first day. Keep the bedtime routine soothing and relaxing. Don’t focus too much (or at all!) on the first day of school unless he wants to.
  3. Have a nutritious breakfast that helps your child focus on fun not hunger.

The morning of the first day:

  1. Children pick up on the reactions of the trusted adults in their lives. So try not to look worried or sad, and don’t linger too long. Say a quick, upbeat good-bye and reassure your child that all will be well.
  2. Think about creating a special good-bye routine. For example, you can give your child a kiss on the palm to “hold” all day long. Or, the two of you can sing a special song together before you leave. Good-bye routines are comforting to children and help them understand and prepare for what will happen next.
  3. When you enter the classroom on the first day, calmly reintroduce the teacher to your child, then step back to allow the teacher to begin forming a relationship with your child. Your endorsement of the teacher will show your child that he or she will be happy and safe in the teacher’s care.


Monthly wrap up – June & July

Don’t get mad at the messenger, but summer break is almost over! We did a lot in June and July and here’s a quick wrap up of our activities:



We hope you are enjoying the lazy days of summer. When we say lazy, though, we hope you don’t forget the importance of safety during the season of pools, beaches, sun, trips, insects, and heat! Just to help you out so you can go back to enjoying the fun, we’ve put together some quick safety tips.

Mansell Dad

They say that parenting is the hardest, yet most rewarding job. Dads play an equally important role in parenting as do mothers, but sometimes their importance gets overlooked. How do Dads make a difference? Here are just 5 of the many reasons why.


Don’t forget that it’s very important to make sure your kids continue to learn even though they are not going to school in the next couple of months. Here’s a look back at our tips to help you and your kids prevent summer brain drain.


At ESNG, we believe in inclusive learning. That includes summer camp. Meet Nicholas, who has spina bifida, who attends a fun and engaging summer camp – with just a few accommodations.

Around ESNG:


This month two of our centers, Brookvalley and Mansell, joined Premier Academy, Madison County, and Warsaw in receiving the prestigious Quality Rating from the Department of Early Care and Learning: Bright From the Start. According to Bright From the Start, “Quality Rated is Georgia’s system to determine, improve, and communicate the quality of programs that provide child care.” We are thrilled to be recognized for our staff’s hard work to educate vulnerable children in Atlanta and northeast Georgia.


Children at our Mansell location had an exciting visit from local emergency workers. Firefighters and paramedics came by and showed kids what they do to keep us safe. They also talked about what kids need to do to be safe in our communities.


Our STEM consultant, Garry Harris, was recognized by President Clinton for his achievements in STEM and early education. ESNG is excited to partner with Mr. Harris and have his expertise as we prepare our children with the tools and knowledge they need to be successful in school and life.


Office Depot Foundation generously donated 300 sackpacks filled with school supplies to us earlier this month. This donation ensures that our children will be ready to learn come August! Thank you, Office Depot.


Even though it’s summer time, that doesn’t slow down our volunteer program. We had six groups of corporate volunteers from Frazier Deeter, PricewaterhouseCoopers, Kabbage, Cox Automotive, Salesforce, and UPS. These volunteers played with and read to our kids or painted and sanitized classrooms to get them ready for August!

Thank you to all these groups!
Here are photos from the events.

Success Starts with our Staff

Last Thursday we celebrated the end of the school year and the great job all of our staff does at our 11 child development centers and Babies Can’t Wait. One of our favorite parts of the day is when we recognize a person from each center. They receive an Individual Excellence Award for their commitment to the values ESNG holds true.

This year’s recipients are:

Brookvalley: Shirley Smith, Assistant Teacher

Guice: Linda Kilgore, Teacher

Linda Kilgore, Guice

Mansell: Yolanda Carrillo, Assistant Teacher

Yolanda Carrillo, Mansell

Premier: Julie Golphin, Teacher

Julie Golphin, Premier

Sylvan Hills: Erica Holmes, Family Support Advocate

Erica Holmes, Sylvan Hills

Warsaw: Michelle Gonzalez, Family Support Advocate

Michell Gonzaelz, Warsaw

Barrow: Kayla Mosher, Teacher

Kayla Mosher, Barrow

Jackson: Jenny Gentry, Teacher

Jenny Gentry, Jackson

Madison: Tiffany Moss, Teacher

Tiffany Moss, Madison

Walton: Sandra Channer, Family Support Advocate

Sandra Channer, Walton

Winder: Angela Walter, Teacher

Angela Walter, Winder

Jimmie Moss, a teacher from our Madison location, received the President’s Award. This award highlights the work of a staff member who goes above and beyond everyday duties.

Jimmie Moss, Madison

Staff also recognized President/CEO Donna Davidson for her hard work in leading the organization for the past 24 years.

Donna and Kathy

We also celebrated many staff’s anniversaries with ESNG.

Five years:

5 years

Pictured L-R: Angela Johnson, Warsaw; Shantay Howell, Guice; Rozza Gadson, Warsaw; Dorothy Anderson, Guice; Arshameyon Anderson, Sylvan Hills; Lynn Black, Guice.

5 years -2

Pictured L-R: Sherley Preal, Brookvalley; Mireya Moorer, Brookvalley: Tonya Marion, Sylvan Hills; Fawn Thomas, Guice.

Not Pictured: Bonar Kyles, Sylvan Hills; Johanna Ayers, Brookvalley; Bernice Baptiste, Mansell; Quiesta Laws, Warsaw; Charlene Molina, Mansell; Missy Phillips, Guice.

Ten years:

10 Years

Pictured L-R: Patricia Shepherd, Sylvan Hills; Angela Hughes, Sylvan Hills; Rose Johnson, Brookvalley; Julia Swift, Sylvan Hills; Tina Nguyen, Corporate; Cheryl McSweeney, Mansell; Dominque Vincent, Guice.

Fifteen years:

15 years

Pictured L-R: Zelda Nix, Mansell: Michael Murray, Guice.


Lendalee Dunn, Guice

We also wished the very best to Ms. Ethel Johnson who is retiring after 16 years of service with ESNG. Her co-workers at Sylvan Hills shared Ms. Johnson’s love with all of us!


If you are interested in working for an organization where you change the lives of vulnerable children, we would love to hear from you. We are looking for teachers, assistant teachers, nutrition techs, social workers, and administrative positions. Come join the ESNG family. Find out more here.

Monthly wrap up – April


April is a month in which we shine a light on autism spectrum disorder. We learn the signs and symptoms in young children, learn about therapies that can help children play and communicate, and meet children who received therapies to help them start school healthy and ready to learn. One of those children is Jacob. Read his story here.


In April, we also recognize the importance of volunteers. We spotlighted the work of one particular group, SIG, and the recycling project they helped implement at our Mansell center. Read that story here.

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Around ESNG: 

This month two of our centers, Warsaw and Madison County, joined Premier Academy in receiving the prestigious Quality Rating from the Department of Early Care and Learning: Bright From the Start. According to Bright From the Start, “Quality Rated is Georgia’s system to determine, improve, and communicate the quality of programs that provide child care.” We are thrilled to be recognized for our staff’s hard work to educate vulnerable children in Atlanta and northeast Georgia.


Families at our Madison County center had a great time at the Home Depot’s Build with Dad. We love to incorporate fun ways to foster family time and to learn through doing. This is yet another great example of putting that into action.


One of the groups that came out to volunteer at our centers in April was Comcast NBC Universal. On Saturday, April 23, a day that they dedicate to volunteering in our community, a large group came to our Warsaw center. They cleaned, sanitized, and decorated the center since the children were out for the weekend. They also built a much-needed shed! Thank you, Comcast NBC Universal, and all the volunteer groups that helped us this month.


Thank you: 

Speaking of Thank You, we wanted to dedicate a special shout-out to this year’s sponsors for Topgolf. A huge woot to the following companies on behalf of the entire organization!

Comcast, CVS, Mitsubishi Electric, Century 21, US Foods, Jones and Kolb, PNC Bank, Creative Mischief, Fraternal Order of Police, Insperity, Cox Automotive and PricewaterhouseCoopers.

It’s not too late to sign up for the event. Check out for more information and to register.


Loving Mother Earth and Our Volunteers

“We were able to set up a recycling program inside the classrooms and play games about recycling with the children, it was fun for everyone!” SIG Volunteer Collin Shepard

Since this month we celebrate Earth Day and appreciate the work of our volunteers, we thought we’d spotlight a great recycling project one of our volunteer groups did at our Mansell location.

In April 2015, ESNG had the pleasure of hosting a volunteer group from Sustainable Investment Group (SIG) – a company’s whose mission is to “improve the built environment to inspire stewardship of the natural environment”. They quickly fell in love with Easter Seals’ mission, the child development center, and of course the children.


For the past year, a group from SIG has come out to Mansell and played with and read to the children several times. Last October they wanted to do something different. They worked with ESNG’s Volunteer Coordinator Linda to implement a recycling program at the center. They didn’t want just to show up with recycling bins and talk to the teachers, though. They knew it was important to teach the children about recycling and the part they play in our environment.IMG_5376

They started the project off by reading about recycling to the children.


Then, they did some great interactive activities with the children just to bring home how easy it is to recycle. “My favorite part about volunteering with Easter Seals is interacting with the kids through games and coloring,” said volunteer Lyndsay Webb.

Lastly, they put one recycling bin in each class, one large bin in the lobby, and set up a monthly pick up for us.


It has been such a great project for both parties involved. Norma Center, director of development at ESNG, said of the event, “It was so great to use the talents of a volunteer group like SIG in one of our centers. I think the kids and teachers really enjoy what they learned today and will continue the project for years to come.”

SIG definitely felt the same one. One volunteer summed up the project perfectly. “Teaching about recycling at Easter Seals was one of my favorite volunteer projects. We love educating the community about sustainability, especially children!” said Charlie Cichetti.

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An extra gift for the project came in February when ESNG received the Green Apple Award from the US Green Building Council – Georgia. SIG nominated us for the award.


Monthly wrap up – March


March 21st marked World Down Syndrome Day. Celebrated on the 21st day of the third month of the year, the date is symbolic of the third copy of the 21st chromosome that characterizes Down syndrome. At ESNG, we have had the pleasure to provide services to several children who have Down syndrome. Whether they attend our child development centers, receive support from Champions for Children, or receive therapies from our early intervention services. Oliver is a two-year-old boy who has in-home physical therapy to help him reach his milestones. Read his story here.


March is a great month to highlight two integral parts of our early education and care program: social work and nutrition. Both are so important in creating healthy and happy children and families in our community.

Social work: earlier this month, we met one of our family support advocates, Ms. Kim Tillman. Read about what she does to help families reach self-sufficiency.


Nutrition: we also learned a lot from one of our nutrition specialists, Teedra Jones. She works with the child development centers to ensure our kids receive healthy and delicious foods to eat every day. Read her tips to incorporate healthy eating habits at home, too.


We made it to spring – a season in which we can finally enjoy the outdoors. To celebrate the beauty of inclusive sports, we spoke to a pioneer and an everyday athlete on this blog post.

Spring is also a season where we start traveling. Marjan Holbrook gave us some great tips on traveling with children with special needs on this blog post.


Around ESNG:

“The more you read, the more you know” – Dr. Seuss

It’s not a coincidence that Dr. Seuss’s birthday shares the same month as Read Aloud Month. All of our 11 child development centers celebrated Dr. Seuss’s birthday with lots of fun reading time! At our Winder location, each classroom dressed up as a Dr. Seuss character and participated in a parade around the center. What a great way to bring books to life!IMG_20160304_111107

Brookvalley had an incredible STEM day on Tuesday, March 15. Children, parents, and teachers had a great time making edible cars. Each classroom, including the toddlers, made their version of a car using cookies, candy, fruits, and veggies. Everyone used trial and error to make the most beautiful and delicious looking cars. Here are some great photos from the day!

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On Friday, March 25, Sylvan Hills offered an excellent parenting class at its facility. Darryl Freeman with Fathers Incorporated talked with moms and dads about the importance of having a strong father figure in their children’s lives. There is plenty of research backing this notion. In fact, children who spend quality time with their fathers are 80% less likely to be incarcerated, 75% less likely to become unwed parents, and twice as likely to graduate from high school and enter college.


Thank you:

Our Guice location received the 2016 Sibley Award to implement a STEM in early education initiative. Funding from the Harland Charitable Foundation and Pittulloch Foundation will improve the educational outcomes for 157 children, engage families in their children’s education, and increase teachers’ professional development. On March 30, ESNG received the award at Guice. Photos of the event can be found here.


On March 12-13, Century Novus Realty held its first annual Reels for Seals fishing tournament in Lake Wedowee, Ala. The event raised $5,000 for Easter Seals North Georgia’s early education, early intervention, and support services. ESNG thanks Century 21 Novus Realty, sponsors, and participants for their support!

reels for seals

PNC presented a gift of $6,000 to our Warsaw location. After volunteering at the North Fulton center, bank representatives saw our program in action. As an organization that supports early education programs, PNC’s financial contribution and employee engagement help us to improve the quality of people’s lives.

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At ESNG, we recognize and value the work of our volunteers. March was full of great groups of volunteers that visited many of our child development centers. These include VWR, Comcast YPL, Pinecrest, North Georgia College, Southwestern University, Trinity, Infinite Energy, and Salesforce. Click here for photos of the events.


Miracle Worker a.k.a. Social Worker

The greatest good you can do for another is not just share your riches, but reveal to them their own. – Benjamin Disraeli 

This month we are celebrating the hard work of social workers. At Easter Seals North Georgia, each of our 11 child development centers has a least one Family Support Advocate who works with families to ensure each child is receiving the care and support he/she needs to be successful and thrive.

One of our FSAs that has been with ESNG for almost 20 years is Ms. Kim Tillman. She works with children and families at our Brookvalley location. Let’s meet her:


Ms. Tillman, Brookvalley staff, and children with Pete the Cat.


How did you come to work at Easter Seals North Georgia?

I started working as a teacher about 20 years ago when Easter Seals was a small Preschool on North Druids Hills with about 3 or 4 classrooms. When Easter Seals became a Head Start grantee, I applied for the position of a Family Support Advocate. This position has been rewarding in so many ways.

What is a typical day like for you?

Each day starts with greeting parents as they walk their children to their classrooms. I invite them to a center activity, parent meeting, special workshop, or training. I also take this opportunity to remind parents of medical documents needed or an upcoming appointment. After breakfast, I go to my three Pre-K classrooms to take attendance, follow-up on previous attendance, follow-up on concerns, and take note of things I need to discuss with the family. I document all this in our system.

An essential service we provide is our commitment to the health of each child. I take care of health screenings (blood pressure, vision and hearing screenings). If we cannot do them at the center, I coordinate with community partners to help. If we do spot a potential problem, we coordinate with local doctors, dentists, or specialists. I will even drive them to an appointment to make sure the child gets the help he/she needs.

I also follow up with parents of children who are absent. We have to make sure that parents understand the importance of coming to school every day. If they are unable to attend because of housing or health issues, I need to address those. I will also visit the child’s home if I am unable to get in touch with the parents on the phone.

Throughout the day, I will answer questions about our program, enrollment, and make referrals for services to make the family stronger. I will also take parents on a tour of the child development center.

At the end of the day, I greet the parents as they pick up their children. I want to make sure they know I am here to help them become successful.

What is your favorite part of your job?

My favorite part of my job is helping parents receive services that their children need. For example,  together with the family, we craft a plan with specific goals they want to achieve. We make sure they are achievable and have a clear plan on how to do that. I also enjoy assisting parents to become their child’s greatest advocate. During the holidays, without our help, the child would not have a holiday at all.

I also love to see a child happy with their accomplishments. Realizing I had a hand in impacting their lives in a positive manner is a job well done for me.

What quality do you think makes a person a good social worker?

Dedication to being a positive role model in another person’s life.

Do you have a story of a child and/or family who thrived because of the services you provided?

Yes, thank God I have the pleasure of several. This year at Brookvalley there is a grandmother that is the guardian of her granddaughter. Ms. Annie Elder, who volunteers in our kitchen very often, is retired from working in the school system food service. It really has been great for her to continue making sure children have healthy meals at Brookvalley. When our cook is out, she is able to substitute.

At Easter Seals, we may not be able to provide everything a family needs, but we have many community partnerships that help us do that. Project Health Grandparents was just one of those partnerships that helped Ms. Annie and Kaylee on their road to self-sufficiency. I enrolled her in the program, which works to improve the quality of life for families in which grandparents are raising grandchildren in parent-absent homes. The overarching goal of the program is to strengthen grandparent-headed families by providing social work and health services, support groups, legal assistance referrals and improved access to community resources. Through these interventions, PHG seeks a reduction in the stress level of intergenerational families, and stabilization or improvement in their social, physical, and mental well-being.

The program has allowed Ms. Annie to provide things to her granddaughter that most people take for granted. They had a special outing to the Georgia Aquarium, they attended luncheons, and she was able to share her experiences with other grandparents raising their grandchildren. It’s been uplifting and supportive to her.

This Christmas Kaylee had a holiday that she will never forget. She received all the things she wanted and more. Ms. Annie didn’t have the struggle to decide whether to pay a bill or get a prescription for medicine to provide a holiday that all children deserve. Kaylee had a beautiful Christmas with the assistance of Project Healthy Grandparents.

Kaylee is very proud to see her grandmother at her school helping and everyone knows her. It’s been a pleasure to have been a positive aspect in her life. IMG9501841

2015 – A Year in Review at ESNG

In 2015, Easter Seals North Georgia experienced thrilling change, impactful partnerships, life-changing stories, a monumental anniversary and many inspiring milestones that will carry us into 2016 ready to support and educate more children with and without disabilities and their families. Join us!

*The following is listed in no particular order

  1. On May 26, ESNG President/CEO Donna Davidson was recognized by Easter Seals national with the Myrtle M. and Tom B. Medder’s Award at the 2015 Leadership Summit awards dinner in Chicago. Read more.

donna medder

2. STEM – The 2015-16 school year started off with a new project for our students at Brookvalley. Children ages three to five enrolled at the child development center are learning Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics through a creative and hands-on curriculum. This first-of-its-kind program geared toward preschoolers will ensure they are on par with their peers as they enter kindergarten. ttt

3. The Clark and Ruby Baker Foundation graciously gifted us with a grant for the Champions for Children program. This program supports families who do not qualify for the Katie Beckett Waiver and face high medical bills. Read more about this program.


4. One of the strengths of ESNG is our partnerships. We are super excited about our newest one with the Marcus Autism Center. The prevalence of  autism spectrum disorder has greatly increased. Fortunately children who are diagnosed early and receive effective treatments early have been showing remarkable improvements. We are piloting a new screening tool that is proving to be more sensitive to identifying children with possible ASD diagnoses. Read more about our ASD program.
ESNG, Photo for Georgia Health Fdn - 5

5. The Georgia Health Foundation awarded us with a grant to expand our autism spectrum disorder program in metropolitan Atlanta and Northeast Georgia. Funds from this award will us provide evidence-based therapies to children in their homes. Therapies through the PLAY Project center around the child’s everyday activities and involve the entire family. Read more about our ASD program.

ESNG, Photo for Georgia Health Fdn - 2

6. Our biggest annual fundraiser, Trick or Treat Trot, was a huge success. Around 500 runners, walkers, families and supporters came out to the Infinite Energy Arena to help us raise funds and awareness for children with disabilities. Photos from the event.

7. Easter Seals North Georgia’s child development center at Sylvan Hills received the Sibley Award to fund a new project that engages families in their children’s education. Read more about our early education and care program.
Sibley Grant Award with Board and ELPM - cropped

8. Donna Davidson was named one of the top 50 nonprofit leaders in Atlanta in 2015 by the Atlanta Business Chronicle. Donna ABC Instagram - Blank

9. Grandpa George Richardson was recognized on Veterans Day for his service. Our Foster Grandparent program is such a great way for seniors to stay involved in their community and, at the same time, children learn from seniors and all that they have to offer. Grandpa Richardson (one of the 100 seniors that volunteer at area child care centers) was recognized for his service to our country by Senator Loudermilk on Veterans Day. Read more about this program.

10. Last year we reflected on how far the country has come since the passage of the Americans with Disabilities Act 25 years ago. While we are still working to make improvements for the lives of so many Georgians with disabilities, we should also celebrate our accomplishments. Read moreada-twitter-icon-red

And one to grow on – Easter Seals has been serving residents of Georgia for 65 years – here’s to another successful year of raising disability awareness and educating and supporting our children so they will be successful in school and life.
Mansell Learning

Teach a child to read and you educate him for a lifetime

“Thursdays are the most exciting days at our house because my daughter gets a new set of books. All my children enjoy when I read the books to them. We act them out. They really make it fun.”


Today has been a day that really illustrates the importance of introducing the love of books to children early. This afternoon I went to our child development center at Guice which is one of ESNG’s two centers that have the Raising A Reader program. I wanted to see and take pictures of the kids getting their red Raising A Reader bags filled with books for them to take home. When I was visiting with Classroom G, there was a little boy there who kept bringing books to his teacher to read to him. Here’s a child whose family does not have a lot of money and has a developmental disability yet his love of books was phenomenal.


Then, after work I took my son to his school’s book fair. Here’s a room full of elementary-aged children who still truly loved books. Their excitement was just as phenomenal as the little boy in Classroom G.

The love of reading seems to be an innate in all children – no matter their ability or their family’s income. It is something that we have to foster in all children. A family that is engaged in their child’s learning and a child’s exposure to books are two key factors that set a child up for success not only in school but also in life.


I challenge all of you to:

  • donate children’s books
  • gift age-appropriate books at baby showers and children’s birthday parties
  • read to your children, grandchildren, nieces, nephews every day
  • volunteer to read at your nearest Head Start facility