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📚Richmond’s first citywide reading initiative is ‘like being part of a family’

RICHMOND, Va. — The “One Richmond, One Book” initiative, the River City’s first-ever citywide reading program, kicks off Monday.

Officials with the Richmond-based non-profit group Read to Them said the program aims to increase literacy for students, their families, school staffers and the community.

As a result, each Richmond elementary school student will receive a copy of the book, Friendship According to Humphrey by Betty G. Birney, to take home. Organizers said the goal for students is to spend 15 minutes each evening reading a chapter of the book with their family.

“After the holidays, Humphrey is shocked by a big surprise in Room 26-a new class pet! Humphrey tries to be welcoming, but Og the frog doesn’t respond to any of his friendly squeaks or visits (remember, he has a lock-that-doesn’t-lock). Plus, the students are so interested in Og, they almost stop paying attention to Humphrey altogether. Humphrey doesn’t like the mad-bad-sad feelings he’s had since Og came, but luckily he still gets to have adventures with different kids on the weekends. Friendship can be tricky, but Humphrey is an intrepid problem-solver. If any hamster can become buddies with a frog, he can.
“Their reading will be augmented with classroom activities, trivia contests, prizes and family reading events,” Read to Them Executive Director John Dwyer said. “Our sponsors and volunteers will support the schools with assemblies, family literacy nights, after school programs, whatever each school might need to be successful.” — reads a description of the book from Penguin Random House.

Some Richmond schools, like Broad Rock Elementary School, have already implemented the program.

LaShonda DeBrill, a reading specialist at Broad Rock, said the reading initiative was popular with her students.

“It was like being part of a family,” DeBrill, said. “It made students happy and excited that even adults were involved. It connected us.”

Patrick Henry Principal Dr. Eileen Atkinson credited the program with improving students’ comprehension and confidence.

Richmond Mayor Levar Stoney hopes fostering family and community involvement will improve literacy for elementary school students.

“Programs like One Richmond, One Book are the heart and soul of this community,” Richmond Public Schools Superintendent Jason Kamras said. “They support quality instruction, they uplift our schools and our students and they help build a sense of community. I can’t wait to get into classrooms and join our students as they read this book.”

Dwyer said Read to Them hopes to continue the initiative so that students and families can read several books each year.

“We’ll cap off their school year with a book giveaway to keep up interest over the summer,” Dwyer added.

If you are interested in volunteering, contact carter.brown@readtothem.org. If you would like to become a  sponsor, contact cathy.plageman@readtothem.org.