Feb. 8, 2010
Elizabeth Klipp, 404-413-1356
It's not every day you see a university president sitting cross-legged on the floor with a group of four-year-olds. But that's what happened last month when Georgia State University President Mark Becker broke from his normal hectic schedule to read, "If You Give a Mouse a Cookie," to a group of 20 pre-kindergarteners at GSU's Lanette S. Suttles Child Development Center.
"This is one of my favorite books," Becker said to the children. Many of them enthusiastically agreed.
Recognizing the importance of early literacy learning, Becker is one of several top Georgia executives who have entered into a friendly competition called "The Battle of the CEOs," to raise money for the Ferst Foundation for Childhood Literacy. The foundation provides books for local communities to prepare Georgia preschool children for reading and learning success.
The video of Becker's reading session will be online at www.ferstfoundation.org during this week (Feb. 8 -12) and open to the public for voting. The first vote each day is free. Additional votes are a $3 donation to the Ferst Foundation, which represents the cost of one book for one child.
"Childhood literacy is important in the creation of language skills, concepts and good habits," Becker said. "Start early and do it often."
Becker will be competing against other top educators and executives in the state, such as University of Georgia President Michael F. Adams; Georgia Tech President G.P. "Bud" Peterson; John F. Brock, Chairman and CEO, Coca-Cola Enterprises; Gary Price, managing partner for PriceWaterhouseCoopers, among others.
They read books such as, "The Little Engine that Could," "The Very Hungry Caterpillar," "Llama Llama," "Red Pajama," "The House that Jack Built," and others.
The executive with the most votes will be declared Georgia's Favorite Reader and be presented the "For the Love of Reading Award" at the Downtown Atlanta Rotary Club luncheon on March 1.
The Ferst Foundation began in 1999 in Morgan County, Ga., through the effort of Robin Ferst who modeled her program after the Imagination Library Initiative, the brainchild of musician, Dolly Parton.
The foundation sends age-appropriate books directly to the home of each registered child from birth until the age of five, striving to improve early learning opportunities for every Georgia child regardless of income, race, religion or gender. In the last decade, more than 1.7 million books have been sent to more than 90,000 Georgia pre-school children in 70 counties.
"It is important to our educational system and our workforce that we lay the foundation for success in school," Ferst said. "Nearly 61 percent of low-income families don't have a single book in their home and we're trying to change that."
No matter the outcome of the friendly competition, Becker said he is pleased he could participate to raise funds for an important cause.
"The main point is to encourage reading to young children," Becker said. "At the end of the day, what is most important are people being engaged and supporting children."