City of Roanoke Honored as Pacesetter for ‘Star City Reads’ Work With Children

The Campaign for Grade-Level Reading has announced its 2016 Pacesetter award and, once again, the City of Roanoke’s “Star City Reads” initiative has been honored as a Pacesetter for exemplary work in eliminating barriers faced by children from low-income families on the path to becoming proficient readers.

Pacesetter Honors are among the highest awards presented by the GLR Campaign, and the announcement recognized 48 Pacesetter communities across the nation for “leading by example” to solve one or more of the challenges that can undermine literacy: school readiness, school attendance, summer learning, and overall grade-level reading, as well for demonstrating excellent work in scaling and planning to sustain GLR efforts.

Roanoke has received five Pacesetter Honors this year for making measurable progress in summer learning, overall grade-level reading, and for exemplary work encouraging parent success, cross-sector collaboration, and supporting our community’s most vulnerable children.

The Campaign’s continued recognition of Roanoke is due especially to the leadership provided by the Roanoke Public Libraries and the strength and breadth of the partners involved in Roanoke’s sponsoring coalition. Star City Reads uses a rigorous data-driven approach and has a targeted focus on supporting children and families who live in public housing.

“We are honored to receive this acknowledgement of our work,” Roanoke Public Libraries Director Sheila S. Umberger said. “Roanoke is truly moving the needle forward for low-income children, and our success is due to our collaborative, community-wide approach and the extraordinary efforts of our 24 partners. Together, we are helping more Roanoke children develop the skills they need in order to succeed in school and beyond. We will not stop until every Roanoke child reads proficiently by the end of third grade.”

In the City of Roanoke, the local Grade-Level Reading campaign is spearheaded by the Roanoke Public Libraries and supported by over 24 partners, including Child Health Investment Partnership, Mill Mountain Theatre, the Roanoke Symphony, the Roanoke Police Department, the Roanoke City Public Schools, Turn the Page, and the Virginia Tech Carilion Research Institute.

The Roanoke City Public Schools launched RCPS+, a free, full-day summer learning program for all Roanoke students, in 2013. Since that time, the percentage of low-income first graders who maintained or improved their performance on the Phonological Awareness Literacy Screening assessment over the summer months after participating in RCPS+ increased from 81.6 percent to 85.9 percent. In the same timeframe, the overall percentage of third graders reading proficiently at the 14 Title I schools increased from 60.5 percent to 70.6 percent based on the Reading Standards of Learning assessment.

The GLR Campaign also acknowledges Roanoke’s efforts to scale and sustain the results it has achieved thus far. Star City Reads received Pacesetter honors for three of the sustainability criteria, including encouraging parent success and bolstering the health determinants of early literacy, displaying strong cross-sector collaboration, and supporting Roanoke’s most vulnerable children, including children living in public housing and homeless children. These efforts are a crucial element to the continued success of Roanoke’s grade-level reading efforts.

Reading proficiency by the end of third grade is a critical milestone toward high school graduation and career success because it marks the transition from “learning to read” to “reading to learn.” National tests show that two-thirds of U.S. fourth graders (four-fifths of whom are from low-income families) are not reading proficiently. Students who have not mastered reading by that time are more likely to drop out of high school and struggle throughout their lives.

For more information visit www.starcityreads.org