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Georgias first lady presents books to North Hall Technology Center
Georgia first lady Sandra Deal, right, looks over one of the donated books at the North Hall Technology Center on Tuesday with Virginia Hale, president of the Friends of the Hall County Library System and Al List, manger of the North Hall Technology Center. - photo by Tom Reed

The North Hall Technology Center is the embodiment of digitized learning: Mac computers, a 3-D printer and other technological platforms fill the rooms.

Friday afternoon, Sandra Deal, wife of Gov. Nathan Deal, presented the center with 43 ink-and-paper children’s books.

“I thought of all the places that might need books, and what more than a brand new library,” she said. “I knew this is a technical center, but I felt like there’s nothing like a book in your hands, and turning the pages and looking at the pictures and really enjoying that book,” Deal said.

“And of course I’m a little bit prejudiced,” the Gainesville native confessed. “It’s my home area.”

The gift was presented by Deal, but furnished by the College of Education at Georgia State University.

Angela Turk, spokeswoman for the College of Education, said it meant a lot for one of the faces of the state’s literacy initiative to make the ceremonial donation.

“She comes from a long line of education, so it’s really true to her heart,” Turk said. “Focusing on early childhood literacy is really key to the Read Across Georgia initiative.”

Early childhood education professor Susan Easterbrooks stressed the importance of print, especially for young children.

“Having books here in this facility just gets them up to the point where they can use that technology,” Easterbrooks said. “You can’t learn to use the new technology if you don’t have print literacy.”

Deal added that she hopes increased focus on reading not only fosters learning, but creative innovation from the state.

“We need good Georgia writers and good Georgia illustrators. We have talent here in Georgia,” Deal said.

Deal had come straight from Wauka Mountain Elementary School, where she read “Who I’d Like To Be,” a personal favorite and one of the 43 books being donated; the college faculty selected the books, and Deal approved them, Turk said.

Deal stressed the regional need for library resources.

“We are a rural area, but these children need library books and early education just like any other place,” she said. “Hopefully this will be a magnet to these children to come down here and read these books.”

The ceremony was a reunion of sorts for many of those present: Deal taught Hall County Commissioner Billy Powell’s child in sixth grade, and Wauka Elementary School teacher Kathy Gailey taught Deal’s son in elementary school.

Deal said she’s grateful to have had teachers who stressed reading to her once-reluctant son.

“I remember when Ms. Kathy Gailey tried to get Jason, my son, to read The Hobbit when he was in sixth grade at Wauka Mountain. And she said, ‘You need to diversify, you need to read something else,’ so she recommended he read The Hobbit,” she recounted.

In that same sense, she said, “it’s important for libraries to carry a variety of books” in order to expand the mind’s horizon.

Deal bemoaned the state’s budget shortfalls.

“We do think the libraries are important, and I’m sorry that the finances are such in the state that we can’t shower you with more money because we know you do a good job,” she said.

Easterbrooks’ ended the ceremony with a simple message: Read a book. And on a damp day, Deal bemoaned not having time to indulge in just that.

“I wish I could curl up with one,” she said with a smile.

But another type of book business would occupy her afternoon. After the ceremony, she headed back to Atlanta to meet with librarians from across the state who had volunteered to research and catalog the books at the Governor’s Mansion.

Growing up, Deal said, she was an avid reader.

“I was one of the kids who would pull the covers up and use the flashlight, or read by the crack in the door, if mama took the flashlight,” she said.

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