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Rotary campaigns for child literacy

ALBANY -- The Dougherty County Rotary Club is participating in a state-wide campaign to encourage literacy in young children.

As part of a Rotary partnership with the Ferst Foundation for Childhood Literacy, Dougherty County Rotary Club President Mary Ligon and other Rotarians have produced a video for the foundation's "Favorite Rotary Reader" competition.

For the competition, Rotary Club presidents in communities across the state are being videotaped reading to children and then challenging their colleagues, clients, employees and friends to vote for their "Favorite Rotary Reader" online at the Ferst Foundation Web site until April 14.

Ligon was videotaped reading Dr. Seuss' "The Cat in the Hat" to pre-schoolers in Dougherty County.

"When the opportunity came up we really wanted to participate in this," said the Rotary Club president. "The children in the video were so adorable and they were really into the book."

During the reading, Ligon took time to ask the children questions about the and prompted the children to identify different shapes and colors in the illustrations of the book.

Ferst Foundation for Childhood Literacy (FFCL) provides a book each month to children from birth to age five in a effort to promote early reading habits. The foundation works in cooperation with country music star Dolly Parton's Imagination Library, which provides the books free of charge to children and their families.

Ferst Foundation President Robin Ferst said approximately 400 children in the Dougherty area are currently registered in the program, which serves 70 counties in Georgia.

"What we do lays the foundation for the future workforce of Georgia -- so it is an economic development issue and we are celebrating our 10th anniversary this year with hopes that we will expand the foundation's presence in Georgia to all 159 counties with the help of our friends in Rotary Clubs," said Ferst.

Ligon said 61 percent of low-income families do not have age-appropriate reading material for children in the home.

"For $36 a year, the Ferst Foundation can give an age-appropriate book to a child each month to help build their own library and prepare them for school," she said. "Dougherty County is one of the poorest regions in the state and we need to help those families. It is a real critical program for Dougherty County."

Since 2000, the Ferst Foundation has delivered more than one million books to children in Georgia.

Ferst said the "Favorite Rotary Reader" competition is a way to increase awareness of the importance of childhood literacy.

At the end of the competition, the Rotary Club president with the most viewer votes will be given an award.

"It was a fun way to celebrate our 10th anniversary and partner with Rotary members," said Ferst of the competition.

To vote for Ligon and the Dougherty County Rotary Club or to make a $3 donation to the Ferst Foundation, visit www.ferstfoundation.com