Hokies score big in game against illiteracy

VA Tech offensive lineman Tyrell Smith with kids at the Books and Breakfast event held at Westside Elementary School Saturday, April 27. – Photos by S. Hale

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Several Virginia Tech Football players (aka Hokies) visited an event involving an organization known as Books and Breakfast (B&B) on Saturday (4/27) at Westside Elementary School.

The program started last year at Hurt Park Elementary School and expanded this year to Westside Elementary. B&B runs two Saturdays a month during the school year. Roanoke City Schools provides free breakfast, lunch and transportation. Turn the Page supplies the books.

William Fleming cheerleaders backed by the school’s drumline perform at the arrival of the VA Tech football players.

The group of Virginia Tech football players received a heroes welcome upon exiting the official Tech bus. The crowd of school kids, awaiting anxiously, were joined by parents who greeted the players as they were celebrated by William Fleming cheerleaders backed by the school’s drumline.

Members of the Tech team seemed quite comfortable and were extremely accommodating as they signed posters, helped to distribute books and read to children while hamming-it-up taking photos with the kids.

Each player stood and gave a short bio and announced what their favorite book was growing up. The segment registered well with the young readers who cheered after each player gave account.

At one point, during breakfast, the session went into high gear as cheerleaders launched into several enthusiastic, high-energy chant-dances. The routine showed off their skills in the art and added much flavor to the event.

Books and Breakfast is a partnership between Roanoke City Schools and Turn the Page, a local non-profit that makes healthy, community-based functions like this happen.

“We want everybody to have access to books and to read to their children because its important,” said Erin Ashwell with Turn the Page.

“There are so many organizations promoting sports and technology, we wanted to form a group that promotes reading and bonds with schools and families.”

Kids browse through books provided by Turn the Page at Books and Breakfast held Saturday (4/27) at Westside Elementary School.

The organization was founded by Elizabeth Martin, Lauren Ellerman and Erin Ashwell with the goal of providing every child with “the resources to have a personal library of their own by the time they start school.” Ashwell says the group gives books to every new mom who delivers at Carilion Roanoke Memorial Hospital and several area pediatric clinics as well.

This vital organization has collaborated with Roanoke City Schools for around two of the five years it has been established.

What’s clear is, Ashwell who is an attorney with Woods, Rogers, PLC, considers her volunteer work with Turn the Page a labor of love.

The organization is established, run and managed by volunteers that are ready, willing and energized by their mission to make a difference in literacy rates among kids therefore potentially raising the quality of life ahead.

“One thing I love about this is we have volunteers from all over,” said Elizabeth Martin another board member. Martin was there with her son Alex who also donates his time to the mission. “This effort brings together volunteers with communities and families and its a beautiful thing,” she adds.

“I’ve delivered babies for almost 20 years,” said Martin, a Carilion affiliate who is a practicing Obstetrics & Gynecology specialist with Physicians to Women, a local OB GYN clinic.

Studies show that reading aides brain development in babies and if kids are not reading by third grade they’re more likely to experience social difficulties throughout life as dropping out of school, unemployment and even incarceration. The volunteers of Turn the Page and other groups like it are frontline soldiers fighting this very scenario–that because of their efforts, is under attack.