Sandra Deal said that Shirley Miller, wife of former Gov. Zell Miller, had worked with senior adults and Mary Perdue, wife of former Gov. Sonny Perdue, devoted time to foster children.
“I was too interested in everything,” Deal said during a Carrollton Rotary Club meeting Tuesday. “I decided what feels right, I’ll do. I’m not the type to sit down, drink sweet tea and read magazines.”
Deal was a school teacher before becoming first lady and some of her first requests in office were for reading in schools. She decided that would be her project.
One of her first observations was that the children’s books she was asked to read were written by authors from other states.
“I knew we had good Georgia authors and I put the word out that I wanted a book by a Georgia author and illustrator.”
The book she chose was “Who I’d Like to Be,” written by 90-year-old Elizabeth Brown of Marietta, and illustrated by Brown’s 8-year-old great-granddaughter, Alexandria Brown of Canton.
Deal chose to direct her reading efforts to elementary students, whom she said she loves to talk with and answer their questions.
“If we’re going to keep children from dropping out of high school, we’re going to have to start with the little ones,” she said. “I read to the children to get them involved in the process and realize that reading can be fun.”
Deal now has a goal to visit all city and county school districts in the state. So far, she has visited more than 60. She launched her “Read Across Georgia” initiative a year ago. In his 2012 State of the State address, Gov. Deal announced that reading would be a focus of his administration and he declared March as “Read Across Georgia” month in honor of his wife’s initiative.
Sandra Deal visited Carrollton and Carroll County elementary schools while here Tuesday.
“I talk to children about their need to practice reading,” she said. “I tell them they need to take their books home and read to their parents and younger brothers and sisters.”
Deal said that both she and her husband have a family history in the education field.
“His mother was a first grade teacher and my mother was a second grade teacher,” she said.
Another major project of hers is to preserve the governor’s mansion and catalog its books and other contents.
“I’ve read a lot and learned a lot about the mansion,” she said. “You should visit the mansion. It’s your property and you need to check on it.”
The mansion was built in 1967 and was decorated with federalist period furniture, dating back to the era from the Revolutionary War to about 1830. She said the furniture had been in use daily since the mansion was built and had never been renovated.
Deal said she has added new rugs and draperies and plans to upgrade the guest bathrooms from Formica counters to white granite.
She also trying to write a history of the mansion and the families who have lived there. The mansion contains many books, some of them autographed by the authors.
“I’m having two special bookcases made,” she said, “keeping in the style of the furniture. They’ll give us some space to store precious books. One of the books is ‘Gone with the Wind,’ signed by Margaret Mitchell.”
Sandra Deal graduated from what is now Georgia College and State University at Milledgeville. She met Nathan on a blind date in 1966, when he was a student at Mercer University. They have been married 47 years and have four grown children and six grandchildren.