Early Learning Initiative Now Under NGHP

Readers to Leaders and First 5, two community early learning initiatives launched by the Dalton-Whitfield Archway Partnership, have transitioned to the leadership of the Northwest Georgia Healthcare Partnership.

Readers to Leaders (R2L) is an early education initiative focused on early mastery of reading and creating a culture of literacy throughout the community. It began in 2012 with a commitment from local government, education, business, and civic leaders to support all local school children with resources to enable them to achieve grade-level reading by third grade. The program was incubated by the Archway Partnership for four years; Dalton graduated as an Archway community last year.

“The most successful Archway partnerships spin off to form their own self-sustaining community initiatives,” said Lynn Laughter, former Archway chair. “We are pleased that we have been able to do that. We had multiple options for this program going forward which speaks to the strength and support of this programming in the community.”

“According to the Centers for Disease Control education is a key social determinant of health, and it’s undeniable that reading is an important part of being well educated, stated Greg Dent, executive director of the NGHP. “The Healthcare Partnership is pleased to add this strategic initiative to our healthy lifestyles portfolio.”

Stephanie Hogshead, formerly a teacher with Dalton Public Schools, has been hired to take the direction of the early learning initiative and will join the partnership this month. She will coordinate the early childhood education work that encompasses all aspects of Readers to Leaders, including Power Lunches, Book Nooks, Reach Out and Read, Read Around the Campfire, Annual Book Blast Literacy Celebration, Saturday Academy, and others.

“We are excited to announce that Stephanie will be joining us in leading this initiative,” said Ali Harp, marketing coordinator for the NGHP. “She brings with her years of educational experience that will add to the success of the literacy component in encouraging lifelong healthy lifestyles.”

Hogshead has 17 years of teaching experience including 10 in which she focused on reading intervention. She holds a bachelor of science degree in elementary and early childhood education from the University of Alabama.

“The Northwest Georgia Healthcare Partnership has a great track record of promoting healthy living in the communities they serve,” said Hogshead. “I am very grateful for the opportunity to have served the children in the community through Dalton Public Schools, but I look forward to continuing to serve the community by joining the Partnership’s efforts through the early learning component.”

A major accomplishment of the First 5 Archway workgroup was in having the region declared an Early Education Empowerment Zone and securing a $1.2 million grant to strengthen early childhood education initiatives throughout Whitfield, Murray, Gordon, Catoosa, and Gilmer counties.

One of the first projects that Hogshead will lead is the R2L Fifth Annual Book Blast. The event, which has historically taken place at the Mack Gaston Community Center, is a celebration of community literacy. Members of the community join together to provide reading circles, crafts, book giveaways, and costumed book characters in order to excite children and their families about reading. This year’s Book Blast will be Thursday, July 28 from 4 to 6 pm.

The early learning initiatives remain a collaborative community effort. The R2L offices are located on the Dalton State campus with supervision and oversight provided by the NGHP, but “continual community support will remain at the heart of the initiative’s success,” according to Harp. For details on ways to support community efforts in literacy and healthy lifestyles or to learn more about the partnership, visit www.NGHP.org or contact Ali Harp at 706-272-6662.