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Roanoke Named A 2012 All-America City

Roanoke was named an All-America City by the National Civic League this week based on its ambitious plan to ensure that more children are reading at grade level by the end of third grade.

Chosen from a field of more than 100 entries, Roanoke’s plan was submitted by a community coalition that included Roanoke City Public Schools, the city government, United Way of Roanoke Valley, Roanoke Public Libraries, Total Action Against Poverty, Smart Beginnings of Greater Roanoke, Dr. Craig Ramey and Dr. Sharon Ramey from the Virginia Tech Carilion Research Institute, Blue Ridge Literacy and the City Manager’s Office. The community was one of 14 awardees selected from 32 finalists.

“It is an honor for Roanoke to be selected as an All-America City for its ‘Star City Reads’ campaign,” said Roanoke Mayor David A. Bowers. “We are confident this initiative will be an effective tool for us to ensure that more Roanoke children are reading at grade level by the end of third grade. Special thanks go to our partners for their contribution to the development of this campaign. In Roanoke, we affirm that ‘reading is everybody’s business.’ This is because reading lets our children become ‘STARS’ in their own right – capable lifelong learners with open minds and hearts, and the skills to succeed in school and life.”

Beyond the award contest, Roanoke’s plan makes the city a charter member in the Campaign for Grade-Level Reading Communities Network, a national movement of local and state leaders, nonprofits, and foundations putting a stake in the ground on third-grade reading. That milestone marks the point when children shift from learning to read and begin reading to learn. Students who haven’t mastered reading by then are more likely to get stuck in a cycle of academic failure, drop out of school, and struggle throughout their lives.

The awards are given each year by the National Civic League for outstanding civic accomplishments. Ordinarily, applicants choose their own local projects to showcase, but this year NCL is teaming with the Campaign to encourage community-based partnerships to improve reading proficiency among young students.

“This partnership with the Campaign has been an amazing experience for our All-America City Awards,” said Gloria Rubio-Cortes, president of the National Civic League which has sponsored the award for more than 60 years. “We were overwhelmed by the quality, passion and thoughtfulness of all the action plans submitted by more than 100 cities, towns and regions. There is a real and deep commitment to ensuring that our children are prepared to succeed.”

The 124 cities and counties in the network, representing 350 school districts with 8 million students, are adopting a collective impact strategy, engaging the full community around the goal of supporting low-income children from birth through third grade.

Roanoke’s plan to improve outcomes in grade-level reading includes developing effective and efficient methods for providing information to all parents, promoting the use of best practice models and evidence-based family support systems, expanding summer reading programs and pursuing a coordinated public awareness campaign on the importance of reading. The city is aiming for 80 percent of Roanoke students to be reading at grade level by the year 2020.

As a charter member of the Grade-Level Reading Community Network, Roanoke will have access to a Promising Practices Clearinghouse, an online help desk, peer-learning opportunities, meetings with national experts and policymakers and a foundation registry designed to expand and replicate successful programs.

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Phyllis Jordan 

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