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Roanoke News

Posted on: September 15, 2021

Roanoke’s Star City Reads Program Wins VML Innovation Award

On Sept.14, 2021, the Virginia Municipal League (VML) announced the winners of its 2021 Innovation Awards, which spotlight excellence in local government. The statewide competition annually recognizes innovative problem-solving, excellence in management, citizen participation, and improved services to citizens. The City of Roanoke’s Star City Reads program was selected as the award winner in the “Working With Youth” category.

The Star City Reads program works to combat literacy challenges by ensuring that all children in the City of Roanoke have access to books beginning at birth. With 33 community partnerships, Star City Reads increased its presence in the community from July 2020 until June 2021 by placing 19,764 books into the hands of at-risk children. This was a nearly 40% increase from the previous year.

Given the difficulties of the COVID-19 pandemic, family literacy became more important as many children in the community needed to learn at home. Through virtual story times and STEM activities, the program adapted to reach more families. Curbside literacy kits provided families with books, educational opportunities, and at-home activities. Moreover, the Libraries developed a state-of-the-art neighborhood E-branch for literacy programs, children’s activities, and educational materials in a friendly, outdoor environment. The program also distributed books and educational materials at the Melrose Fall Festival in October 2020 and at the new Read and Ready Festival in June 2021.

“We are very honored to receive this recognition,” said Roanoke Public Libraries Director Sheila Umberger. “Roanoke will continue the deep community collaborative effort to support our children and families. We know that by working together we will achieve our goal of heathy families and lifelong learning.

VML received nearly 70 entries, from which judges selected one winner in each of eight categories. To learn more about the 2021 Innovation Awards, use this link.  For more information about the Star City Reads program, please contact Sheila Umberger at



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