HANCOCK COUNTY, MS (WLOX) - Mississippi's First Lady is taking her battle against illiteracy on the road. On Thursday, Mrs. Deborah Bryant visited two South Mississippi schools as part of her state-wide tour to promote reading. Her husband's personal struggles with reading at an early age inspired her to reach out to children.
Deborah Bryant hugged every child who lined-up to greet her.
"When they hug you, it just takes your heart away," she said with a big laugh.
As Mrs. Bryant entered the school library, she introduced herself to about 100-first graders. Then, she jumped right into the reason for her visit.
"I love to read, so today I'm going to read you a Cat in the Hat book," she told the youngsters.
"She's cool, because she has a mansion and she's married to the governor," said first grader Gabby Harris.
Mrs. Bryant dropped by South Hancock Elementary School as part of her "Read Across Mississippi Tour." Earlier, she also shared a book with students at North Bay Elementary School in Biloxi. Her goal is to visit at least one school in every county in the state by the end of the year.
"I just think it's important to touch all 82 counties. I wish I could go to every school, at least every county, know that we do care and this is very important and how important reading really is to our future," said Bryant. "We have such a big problem in Mississippi with so many children not being able to read by the third grade and that is the governor's initiative."
"That's why you see so many children drop out by the ninth grade, because once they get to the fourth grade, it's just a frustrating trip to them. We should never let that happen," she added.
Mrs. Bryant also explained the importance of finding out early why children struggle with words.
"Want me to tell you somebody who is dyslexic?" she asked the students.
"Who?" they asked.
"The governor," she replied.
The First Lady told the little ones how her husband overcame his learning disability and went on to become governor. She encouraged every child to pursue his or her own dreams and it starts with reading.
"It was good, because she was nice and she showed us her pictures and she let us pick what we wanted to be," said first grader Emmalee Coote. "She read us books that were cool that we never saw before. The more you read, the smarter you get."
On Friday, Mrs. Bryant will read to students at two other South Mississippi schools -- Jackson County and George County. She hopes to visit 30 schools by the end of the month.
"I think anybody that gives them attention is important to them. You can be a first lady, you can be a parent, you can be a teacher, it doesn't matter," said Bryant. "It's the ones that act like they really care about them that make a mark on their lives and I do care about them."