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Hickman shares love of reading, commitment to raising literacy
Sponsored by the state senator, SB 211 creates Ga. Council on Literacy
State Sen. Billy Hickman reads "Llama Llama Red Pajama" to pre-schoolers at Kid's World in Statesboro on May 4. - photo by JIM HEALY/staff

Even before he became a state senator in 2020, Billy Hickman supported efforts to improve literacy in the Statesboro and Bulloch County community. But, as a state senator, Hickman was able in the 2023 General Assembly to get the full force of state government behind a literacy initiative.

On April 13, Gov. Brian Kemp signed Senate Bill 211 into law, establishing the Georgia Council on Literacy. Senate Bill 211 was sponsored and championed by State Sen. Hickman, who represents District 4, which includes Bulloch and several other counties.

“The creation of the Georgia Council on Literacy is a major step forward in improving early literacy rates in our state,” Hickman said after the signing. “It is vital to ensure our children receive literacy instruction backed by evidence-based principles.”

Last week, Hickman shared his love of reading and commitment to children’s literacy when he came to Kid’s World Learning Center and read to a group of pre-k children.

Hickman read “Llama Llama Red Pajama” to the 60 or so 4- and 5-year-olds at Kid’s World on Savannah Ave. Hickman kept the children entertained with the rhyming tale of a little llama who just won’t go to sleep with questions and comments that made the story even more amusing.

“This is so much fun and it’s important for these kids to see someone like me come to them and take the time to read out loud,” Hickman said. “I know it’s something Jack (Hill) did all the time.”

Hickman was referring to the late State Sen. Jack Hill, who passed away in 2020. Hickman won a special election in August 2020 to replace Hill.

“Literacy is the basis of our children learning,” Hickman said after finishing reading to the Kid’s World children. “In our area and in Georgia, we are not doing enough to get our kids reading and the COVID pandemic just made it worse.

“In some school systems in my senate district, less than one-third of kids are reading on their grade level. If we don’t address that issue head-on, we will put those kids and our whole state at a terrible disadvantage.”

Hickman said he sponsored Senate Bill 211 to specifically establish oversight from the Council on Literacy ton help schools and the state increase literacy. The heart of the bill reads: “…to require local school systems to develop and implement five-year literacy plans for such school system and individual literacy plans for students in kindergarten through grade five…”

Hickman said his efforts to help improve literacy will continue and he will keep reading to children.

“Thanks to Kid’s World for inviting me and what a great place for children to start learning,” Hickman said. “We need to make opportunities like these available to even more children.”

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