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Sandra Deal launches 'Read Across Georgia' program

Patti Henderson, left, works with First Lady Sandra Deal, center, Stephanie Mayfield, right center, and Lauren Armour, right, to collect toys while organizing and putting together "toy boxes" that will be distributed to needy children throughout the area at Norcross Cooperative Ministry during a series of statewide events to encourage volunteerism Saturday in Norcorss.

Patti Henderson, left, works with First Lady Sandra Deal, center, Stephanie Mayfield, right center, and Lauren Armour, right, to collect toys while organizing and putting together "toy boxes" that will be distributed to needy children throughout the area at Norcross Cooperative Ministry during a series of statewide events to encourage volunteerism Saturday in Norcorss.

ATLANTA (AP) -- Georgia First Lady Sandra Deal has launched the "Read Across Georgia" initiative to support Gov. Nathan Deal's goal of increasing the number of third-graders reading at grade level in the state.

Sandra Deal, along with state schools Superintendent John Barge, will visit schools across the state this month to read to students. Her goal is to visit all 180 school districts in the state over the next three years.

The governor announced in his State of the State address in January that reading will be a focus of his administration. Nathan Deal named March "Read Across Georgia" month in honor of the initiative.

Experts say children who cannot read on grade level by third-grade have more difficulty catching up and are more likely to drop out of school.