Creating Star Readers


star city reads

By: Lindsey Rutrough

All of us want the best for our kids and want to see them succeed in every area of their life. We also would like to see our community improve and become a better place for our kids to grow up in. What if there was a program that would benefit both our kids and our community? The good news is that there is. There is a new program in Roanoke called Star City Reads that is looking to involve the whole community to benefit our children. It came about when RoanokeCity was awarded the All-AmericaCity award last spring.

The All-America City Award recognizes communities whose citizens’ work together to identify and tackle community-wide challenges and achieve uncommon results. It is the oldest community recognition program in the nation. Roanoke has been awarded this honor 6 times now. The very first time that the award was given to Roanoke was in 1952 for the new air conditioned downtown library. Last year Roanoke was awarded AllAmericaCity for another program related to the Roanoke City Public Library- a program to improve reading skills of kindergartners to 3rd graders. This program is called Star City Reads and has big goal for our community. The vision of Star City Reads states that “every child in Roanoke enters kindergarten ready, attends school regularly, and is provided effective summer programs so that every child attains grade level reading by 3rd grade”. Studies have shown that children that enter kindergarten ready are more likely to succeed and learn better in school. Studies have also shown that 3rd grade is a very pivotal moment during the school years. 3rd graders that are behind in reading continue to get further and further behind and are 4 times more likely to drop out of high school. High school dropouts are more likely to be involved in crime, have a lower paying job, and require welfare assistance. Ultimately what happens in those early years will affect a child’s whole life. StarCity Reads wants to do all that they can do to give our kids a brighter future.

StarCity Reads has been in the works for about 2 years now and has many partners including TAP Head Start, Blue Ridge Literacy, United Way of Roanoke Valley, Virginia Tech Carilion Research Institute, Smart Beginnings, Roanoke Children’s Theatre, and RoanokeCityPublic Schools. The library is starting to begin the Star City Read program now and it will continue to be implemented over the next 3 years. Sheila Umberger, Director of Libraries, states that the program ultimately “wants to create in children a love of learning”. The more kids want to learn the better they will do in life. The good news is that everyone from individuals to groups can help put this program into action. How you ask? There are 3 major ways that you can be involved.

The first part of the plan to be implemented this year is something called Star City Reader. This would be someone that volunteers, goes through a background check, and is trained through the library. The Star City Reader would then be sent to a group of kids either in a daycare or school and they would bring with them a kit. The kit would include an age appropriate book for every child in the group, a teacher’s guide, and incentives for the children such as stickers. The Star City Reader would be able to spend time with the kids and read the book to them. He would then leave the books with the kids- every child would go home with a book- and the teacher book with the teacher. The library needs not only people to volunteer to actually be a Star City Reader but also needs money or books donated for the kits.

The second part is to provide more support for parents. Any parent will tell you that raising kids can be challenging, time consuming, and many times overwhelming. So many parents feel like they are alone in raising their kids and do not know where to turn to get help or information. Star City Reads would like to start offering classes to help parents and to help give them the support that they need. They are looking for ideas for the classes and for volunteers to help set up and/or teach classes. The goal is for these classes to be free of cost and available to any parent that would be interested in coming.

The last part of the plan that is being implemented is data collection. Data collection is currently being starting in schools, preschools, and daycares all over Roanoke. Studies are being done to determine what programs benefit learning, what areas children are struggling in, and what can be changed in the classroom to maximize learning. Drs. Sharon and Craig Ramey with Virginia Tech Carilion Research Institute are currently in charge of this project. They are looking for volunteers to both help gather data and to enter data.

Again, everyone can be involved in this program that will benefit every child in Roanoke. Maybe you are a parent that would like to be a Star City Reader and read to your child’s preschool class. Maybe you are part of a business that would like to do a book drive. Maybe you are in charge of a back to school program where the library could set up a table. The possibilities and ways that you can be involved are endless. The more people that get involved the better the outcomes for our children. After all it has been said that it takes a village to raise a child.

For more information, to volunteer, donate, or to simply share ideas please visit the website or e-mail at


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