Four Roanoke Honorees Inducted Into Grade-Level Reading Council of Champions

The Campaign for Grade-Level Reading (CGLR) Council of Champions has recognized four Roanoke individuals as the newest members of its Council. Dr. Rita Bishop, Superintendent of Roanoke City Public Schools; Roanoke City Mayor Sherman Lea; and Drs. Craig Ramey and Sharon Ramey, Distinguished Research Faculty at the Virginia Tech Carilion Research Institute and Chief Science Officers for Human Development, City of Roanoke, were inducted for their support of the Campaign for Grade-Level Reading and their significant efforts to help students achieve reading proficiency by the end of the third grade.

Dr. Bishop was recognized for “outstanding work supporting a range of efforts that have improved academic performance and human outcomes for all RCPS students, including increasing third grade reading proficiency rates and the graduation rate,” said Sheila Umberger, Director of the Roanoke Public Libraries, the lead organization for Star City Reads, Roanoke’s Campaign for Grade-Level Reading initiative.

Mayor Lea was honored for his “ardent and vocal support” of Star City Reads, and for his leadership of such efforts as the new Books for Barbershops program, which provides books for children to read while they visit area barbershops. Mayor Lea attended the GLR Week event in Denver last year to receive Roanoke’s record seventh All-America City Award.

Drs. Ramey were both recognized for “devoting their careers to researching childhood brain development and growth,” said. Umberger. “Both Sharon and Craig have dedicated countless hours to supporting Roanoke’s low-income children. Furthermore, both Drs. Ramey have conducted a lifetime of research that has bettered our nation’s understanding of the importance of early educational experience on a child’s future.”

The Grade-Level Reading Council of Champions honors exemplary volunteers, early care and education providers, school and civic leaders, public officials, and others who communities nominated based on their alliance with and support for local efforts to support early literacy success. These individuals play a crucial role in communities’ work improving early outcomes.

In the City of Roanoke, third grade reading proficiency rates, as measured by 3rd grade reading SOL pass rates, have risen from 65.1 percent to 76.1 percent district-wide, and from 60.5 percent to 73.1 percent for low-income children. Kindergarten readiness, school attendance, and summer learning outcomes are also improving.

“The Star City Reads coalition simply would not have this sort of success without the foundational support of Dr. Bishop, Mayor Lea, and Drs. Ramey,” Umberger said. “Drs. Bishop and Ramey’s data partnership has allowed us to see children’s literacy outcomes across the city and to provide additional, targeted supports where the data shows more support is needed. Mayor Lea has made our work a core part of the City’s mission. We are tremendously grateful for these individuals’ efforts and are so pleased to see them all recognized on a national level.”

“We are thrilled to welcome this year’s 130 honorees into the GLR Council of Champions and privileged to work with such outstanding leaders,” said Ralph Smith, managing director of the Campaign for Grade-Level Reading. “Their leadership helps to ensure that Roanoke is ‘connecting the dots’ to ensure early school success. Moving the needle on grade-level reading takes consistent two-generation supports and interventions, and our Champions’ contributions in these solution areas are driving the bigger outcomes and game-changing impact that assure more hopeful futures for the next generation.”

Among past GLR Council of Champions honorees across the country are superintendents, national and state legislators, local government officials, foundation leaders, and nonprofit organization founders.

For more information about Star City Reads, please contact Sheila Umberger at (540) 853-2476, [email protected]. You can learn more about the program at and on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram @StarCityReads.

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