Roanoke, Star City Read initiative recognized for work supporting early learning during COVID-19 pandemic

Roanoke Valley News

Roanoke Public Library kicks off “Feed and Read” program

ROANOKE, Va. (WFXR) — Roanoke, along with its Star City Reads initiative, has received special recognition for supporting early school success during the COVID-19 pandemic.

The Campaign for Grade-Level Reading (CLGR) announced that Roanoke has been named a 2021 Bright Spot community.

CLGR is highlighting communities that developed exemplary or innovative responses to the COVID-19 pandemic.

“As soon as the pandemic set in, we realized that children were going to have a very difficult time and that their learning and development would suffer,” said Sheila Umberger, Director of the Roanoke Public Libraries. “Last March, our staff mobilized to immediately offer virtual early literacy opportunities for children. In June, we collaborated with Feeding Southwest Virginia to offer our Feed and Read program curbside so children could receive free, nutritious meals and early learning activities at the same time from the same place.”

At the start of the pandemic, Roanoke Public Libraries staff began recording and posting virtual storytimes on the library system’s Facebook and Instagram pages and on its YouTube channel.

More than 150 storytime and craft videos have been shared.

Umberger said another key concern during the pandemic was the financial impact that would cause more local children to go hungry.

Once Roanoke Public Libraries began curbside service in June 2020, its renowned Feed and Read program also resumed. More than 60,000 meals have been served through curbside service since then.

Many other Star City Reads partner organizations have also supported youth nutrition in Roanoke, including Roanoke City Public Schools, Kids Soar, and the Roanoke Redevelopment and Housing Authority.

Roanoke Public Libraries has also distributed learning kits to local children. Library staff has distributed more than 8,400 themed learning kits since the summer of 2020. Each kit contains a free book appropriate for the child’s reading level from birth through adolescence, as well as crafts the child can do with their family.

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