Roanoke leaders create reading program to increase literacy rates in elementary students, reduce crime

Research shows raising literacy rates at a young age helps to prevent and reduce crime

ROANOKE, Va. – The Roanoke Gun Violence Prevention Commission has teamed up with a local elementary school to encourage students to read while also preventing violence in future generations.

“One of the things we really learned that was very impactful was the fact that children who are not reading at their grade level in early elementary school years are significantly more likely to end up in the prison system and perpetrate violent crimes. And it seemed like there was a relatively easy fix,” said organizer and Gun Violence Prevention commissioner, Rabbi Kathy Cohen.

The fix? A reading program at Lincoln Terrace Elementary School. Once a week, students meet one on one with a volunteer and spend their lunchtime reading.

“So, Rabbi Cohen reaching out to me, I was very excited about the partnership. So I’m glad she has brought the ability to have our students read with volunteers,” said principal, John Otey.

It’s been two weeks since the program started and volunteers are already noticing a difference.

“They enjoy finding a word or two on the page that they know. They are learning new vocabulary words,” said Rabbi Cohen. “The books the teachers and the reading specialists here have picked out are just so interesting and so much fun.”

The program is still looking for more volunteers to help mold the minds of the future generation.

“To be able to develop the future of society. These students are then going to be our leaders later on,” said Otey. “We don’t want them to have the difficulty of reading. Let’s not let that be the hurdle.”

Research shows raising literacy rates at a young age helps to prevent and reduce crime, which is exactly what this program is aiming to do.

“That success gives them hope. And that hope gives them the possibility of doing really amazing things with their potential,” said Cohen.

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