A group of like-minded individuals came together with a single vision — to empower children through education.

In 1996, that group, in Kennewick, Wash., founded The Children’s Reading Foundation, a nonprofit focused on literacy and school readiness skills for children from birth to age 8.

And on Tuesday, another group of similarly like-minded community members met at the Brunswick library to celebrate the launch of the first Georgia affiliate of The Children’s Reading Foundation.

The Children’s Reading Foundation of Georgia officially launched its slogan, “Read together 20 minutes every day,” during the Martin Luther King, Jr., Day festivities on Monday — Jan. 20, 2020.

“So Jan. 20, 2020, was a great day, and it will always be a memorable anniversary,” said Linda Muir, president and CEO of The Children’s Reading Foundation of Georgia.

The organization will promote early childhood literacy through a Ready for Kindergarten program and its “Read together 20 minutes every day,” slogan. The goal is to increase the number of students prepared for kindergarten in Glynn County as well as the number of students reading on grade level by third grade.

A powerful predictor of success in school is whether a student can read on grade level by third grade.

“When children are reading well by the end of third grade, they have an incredible foundation for all future learning,” said Kristin Norell, CEO of the national organization, who joined the celebration Tuesday and shared the mission of the foundation.

Reading to a child daily for 20 minutes, Norell said, will teach them school readiness skills as well as better communication abilities and social and emotional development skills.

“Research shows that children who start kindergarten with the skills of a 5 year old with typical development are well on the way to a successful and satisfying education,” Norell said. “These children start school ahead and stay ahead year after year.”

The flip side is also true — if a student starts kindergarten unprepared, he or she will likely stay behind the rest of their academic career.

Nearly half of local students are not proficient readers by the end of third grade, Muir said.

Last year, to promote community involvement in the school system’s efforts to improve students’ literacy skills, assistant superintendent Sung Hui Lewis announced a new “Lit 3 — Ask Me” initiative. Muir responded to that announcement and met with Lewis, and the pair began to pursue bringing a chapter of The Children’s Reading Foundation to Georgia. Virginia Brown, president and CEO of the United Way of Coastal Georgia, came on board to support this mission, and in November the “Lit 3 Alliance” launched.

The alliance between the new Georgia chapter, Glynn County Schools and United Way of Coastal Georgia intends to improve early children’s literacy in this community.

The first program will be the Ready for Kindergarten initiative, and the local chapter will also continue sharing its 20-minutes-a-day slogan.

“When you read with a child for 20 minutes a day, it promotes healthy brain development, it strengthens bonds and nurtures language, it nurtures literacy and other school readiness skills,” Muir said. “It turns out that readiness for kindergarten is the key benchmark and the strong predictor of third grade reading proficiency.”

Early childhood literacy is one of the most important issues in this region, Brown said.

“There is no other issue in my mind that impacts the future of our children and our community more profoundly than reading on grade level out of third grade,” she said. “Success in life, as many of us know, begins with a quality education.”

The new chapter also launched its website Monday — read20georgia.org. Those wishing to volunteer or donate to the program can do so on the website.

Norell encouraged the community to support this initiative.

“As you know, they can’t do this important work alone,” she said. “I hope every member of this community is as humble and as inspired as I am to see such incredible passion and dedication to this mission. You are the champions who will bolster early literacy and learning efforts in this community.”

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