Campus News

Professor’s gift helps childhood literacy

Bill Flatt was photographed in 2010 for his support of Wee Read, a program that delivers free books to children. (Photo by Peter Frey/UGA)

For 4-year-old Rosie Thao, Saturdays mean pancakes and books.

The pancakes are courtesy of the man she calls “Papa,” also known as Bill Flatt, professor emeritus of food and nutrition, but the books come from Wee Read, a program that delivers free books to children and is a beneficiary of UGA’s annual Campaign for Charities fundraising effort.

Flatt and Rosie are the kind of family that happens by circumstance. Rosie’s mother, Pang, was the nurse for Flatt’s wife, June, before she died in 2009. After Rosie was born, she started to come with her mother to the Flatts’ house and quickly became part of the family.

“She was coming to my house five or six days a week, so she was growing up in our household and so I wanted to make sure she was getting the books right away,” he said. “Now she comes over every other week-and she always brings her books along.”

Every month, Rosie and about 3,000 other children in Clarke County receive a book geared to their maturity level free of charge from Wee Read. Available in English and Spanish, the books are selected by a panel of educators to optimize early literacy development.

“My involvement began about three years ago when I attended a Rotary Club program that featured this program,” Flatt said. “I was really impressed with the program, showing that these children could have a book of their own mailed to them that is age- and gender-specific and it could be something they look forward to getting. The ultimate goal of it is childhood literacy.”

For $36, contributors can guarantee one child gets one book a month for one year. According to the program, there are about 7,000 children from newborn to age 5 in the Athens area, but currently only about 3,000 are enrolled.

Wee Read is one of 30 programs under the organizational umbrella of the United Way of Northeast Georgia, which benefits from UGA’s Campaign for Charities, an annual event that allows UGA employees to donate money to programs of their choice with cash, a check or through automatic payroll deduction.

For Flatt, the Wee Read program was a perfect fit. And it’s not just Rosie who enjoys reading the books. On their Saturdays together, Flatt says she can’t get enough of being read to.

“And the books are so good,” Flatt said. “The kids just love reading them. They get so excited about it.”

Donations made to UGA’s Campaign for Charities, which runs through Dec. 17, can be deducted from paychecks pre-tax. Forms can be completed online by visiting Although a specific line item or agency number isn’t assigned to Wee Read on the form, the program can be supported by making a contribution to the United Way of Northeast Georgia.