Since its inception in 2012, volunteers engaged in Readers to Leaders (R2L), an early literacy initiative in Whitfield County, have sought to create a culture of reading in the community.

UGA students and faculty have helped develop opportunities to promote literacy through the Whitfield County Archway Partnership, which established the literacy initiative after hearing concerns about workforce development and economic vitality in the community.

For three years, leaders have hosted a celebration of reading that has reached thousands of children. In spring 2014, thanks to local donors, R2L staff placed 18 “Book Nooks” in waiting areas around the county with free reading materials for children and families. The United Way of Northwest Georgia also placed Little Free Libraries, small book-swapping stations, in parks and public areas in the community.

Expanding a summer reading program started by Dalton City Schools, R2L partnered with Whitfield County Schools to give away over 2,000 donated books at USDA free lunch sites in summer 2014. At some of these sites, the chamber of commerce and Dalton State College School of Education volunteers hosted weekly reading circles and learning opportunities.

The public library, a key partner in the literacy efforts and contributor to R2L, has experienced significant growth in its youth programming, necessitating a move to a larger venue for many key events.

UGA units that have played a role in the R2L initiative include the College of Education, the Lamar Dodd School of Art, the School of Law, the Terry College of Business, the Cooperative Extension Service, the Institute for Nonprofit Organizations and the Grady College of Journalism and Mass Communication.