Education in Action: Roanoke, VA Embraces Reading Readiness Through and Through

The League has promoted improving education through civic engagement for more than a century. At the 109th Conference on Local Governance, one of our three tracks is focused on Youth and Education. Investing in equitable educational opportunities for youth and adults creates a strong foundation for a thriving community. For this track, education goes beyond just the school system to include all learning opportunities a community can provide for youth and adults from libraries to monuments to arts spaces and more. This track will also explore the strategies and programs that create spaces for youth to be leaders in the community. The vision for this track is a thriving, learning community that provides equitable, culturally responsive educational opportunities that lead to meaningful work.

Healthy, thriving communities use all sectors to make better health possible for all residents. Whether it’s access to fresh food, green space or affordable housing, local governments, nonprofits, school districts and businesses all have a role to play. This track will focus on creating a complete picture of health, from physical environments and planning to strategies for promoting mental health. Equity will be a connecting focus throughout the conference, with a focus on eliminating disparities and a vision of creating a community in which demographics or a zip code do not determine residents’ health outcomes.

Recently, Carla Kimbrough wrote the following article about one of our All-America City winners, Roanoke, VA:

In early fall, a tractor-trailer loaded with 40,000 books rolled into Roanoke, Virginia. About twenty-five volunteers, aided by three forklifts, had three hours to unload the books. Then, the books were sorted and distributed to 50 organizations. Finally, the books will be in the hands of about 4,000 low-income children living in this southwest Virginia city of about 100,000 residents.

The books came from First Book, a nonprofit social enterprise founded in 1992 that has provided more than 170 million new books, learning materials, and other essentials to children in need. In Roanoke, getting books to these children is the work of the Star City Reads program, a community-wide effort involving people from multiple sectors—schools, government, nonprofits, and more—who crisscross the city to help children gain strong reading skills.

“We all have a role to play in this,” Sheila Umberger, director of Roanoke Public Libraries, said of the community.

“This” is embracing the importance of reading, especially at grade level.

Reading affects the entire community’s progress, Umberger said.

Children who read at grade level end up graduating, and adults who can read well become employable. That understanding has spread over the last several years in Roanoke. “We look at it [grade-level reading] much more seriously,” Umberger said of how Roanoke has changed since the community joined the Campaign for Grade-Level Reading and won an All-America City award in 2012.

Read the full article, here…

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