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Sunday, April 21, 2013
Winning the All-America City Award in 2012 was a thrilling and validating moment for residents of Roanoke, city employees and community leaders and businesses in our valley. Winning the award demonstrated how many wonderful and beneficial programs and initiatives we employ every day to enrich the lives of our residents.
A critical element in our historic sixth time winning this prestigious award from the National Civic League was the community collaboration, development and presentation of our All-America City Star City Reads Campaign. The goal of this campaign is to improve grade level reading by third grade in Roanoke.
Recently, our community came together at a breakfast event to kick-off the All-America City Star City Reads Campaign. This event was organized to raise awareness of the campaign’s goal, educate leaders in business, education and economic development about the campaign, and enlist community support through volunteerism, donations and data-sharing.
There are many ways the Roanoke community can help achieve this critical goal, but those options are framed by some sobering facts:
The Star City Reads Campaign strives to achieve our overall goal of changing our children’s future by focusing on three key action areas:
1. Improving the number of children who are “kindergarten ready” and ready to learn;
2. Working to reduce absences from school, and finally,
3. Supporting quality learning experiences, especially summer learning, since children living in poverty have a greater learning loss during the summer months than their more affluent peers.
As a community, we can make a difference in the lives of children and work together to improve reading through Star City Reads. Every individual and organization involved in creating and supporting the Star City Reads Campaign’s goal encourages residents to think about becoming a Star City Reader.
Volunteers for this program receive training to read aloud to young children in local schools and child care centers and will use book kits to distribute books and incentives to children and offer supporting educational materials to teachers and caregivers. Star City Readers will put new books in the hands of young children, positively impacting their early years through literacy enrichment.
Star City Reads is also asking organizations and businesses to collaborate by supporting a community database so that the Star City Reads Campaign can identify and focus efforts on the areas of greatest need. Sponsorship is another way to directly support Star City Reads by donating funds that will be allocated to underwrite summer reading efforts, parenting classes and a series of family learning programs.
Implementing this plan to achieve the Star City Reads Campaign reading level goal will require diligence and effective collaboration between business leaders, volunteers and donors. The Star City Reads Campaign appreciates the continued support of companies and organizations including Cox Communications, The Roanoke Times, Oakey’s Funeral Service, the Roanoke Public Library Foundation and the dedicated partners in the All-America City Award process: the city of Roanoke, United Way, TAP Head Start, Roanoke City Public Schools, Virginia Tech Carilion Research Institute, Smart Beginnings, Blue Ridge Literacy and the Roanoke Children’s Theatre.
Finally, the most important mission of the Star City Reads Campaign is to create a community of children who love to learn. We will be successful if we continue to build on the strong collaboration and community partners that exist in Roanoke.
This collaborative spirit is why Roanoke is the only city in the country to win the All- America City designation six times. When Roanokers work, collaborate and read together as a community, we can significantly improve the educational achievements of — and a life of opportunities for — our vibrant All-America City.
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