May 31, 2023

The Right to Read: Virginia Beach Featured in Documentary About Early Literacy

Virginia Beach GrowSmart is hosting a FREE screening of the film on June 3
Right to Read

When Teresa and Isaiah Hunter had their first child Ivy, they wanted to do all they could to support her healthy development. The Hunters heard about GrowSmart’s LENA START class through the Virginia Beach Department of Public Health’s Healthy Families program. They enrolled in the first Virginia Beach LENA START class in 2018 when Ivy was two months old to learn more about early brain development and simple techniques parents can use at home to support language and brain development.

Teresa discovered her passion during the 10-week class and after she graduated, continued to stay involved in LENA START classes by helping spread the word to other families in Virginia Beach. She went on to become a trained LENA START coordinator with GrowSmart and leads other parents in GrowSmart’s START classes to ignite their power to support their child’s early language and brain development. The Hunters journey is featured in "The Right to Read" documentary.

Directed by Jenny Mackenzie and executive produced by LeVar Burton, the film shares the stories of an activist, a teacher, and two American families who fight to provide our youngest generation with the most foundational indicator of life-long success: the ability to read.

GrowSmart has led local collaborative efforts focused on early childhood development and early literacy for decades. Virginia Beach joined the national Campaign for Grade Level Reading in 2012 and created Virginia Beach READS, a local coalition of community partners focused on addressing the challenge of reading proficiency by third grade.

Research proves third grade reading proficiency is the most important predictor of high school graduation and career success. Virginia Beach READS includes the GrowSmart Foundation, Virginia Beach City Public Schools, Virginia Beach Public Library, Parks and Recreation, Human Services, Virginia Beach Department of Public Health, early intervention, United Way South Hampton Roads, head start, childcare programs, and community member volunteers.

Schools are critical partners in ensuring children are successful readers by providing effective teaching for all children in every classroom every day. The campaign is based on the belief that schools cannot succeed alone. Engaged communities mobilized to remove barriers, expand opportunities, and assist parents in fulfilling their roles and responsibilities to serve as full partners in the success of their children are needed to assure student success. Virginia Beach READS has moved the needle on kindergarten readiness and grade-level reading proficiency through collaborative approaches using science based approaches.

You are invited to a FREE community screening of “The Right to Read” on Saturday, June 3, at 10 a.m. at Zeiders American Dream Theater, 4509 Commerce St. Meet the director and the Hunters as well as connect to local efforts supporting early literacy.

The entire community can play a critical role in ensuring young children get a strong start in life. Won’t you join us? For more information, contact GrowSmart Coordinator Barb Lito at 757-385-0144 or visit

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