November 27, 2023

Virginia Beach Recognized for Work with Campaign for Grade-Level Reading

VB GrowSmart leading the charge on promoting and improving school readiness and reading proficiency by the Third Grade.

The Campaign for Grade-Level Reading (CGLR) has recognized Virginia Beach with Pacesetter Honors for its 2022–23 work, recognizing initiatives including Virginia Beach Talks, Libraries in Laundromats, and StoryWalks®.

  • Virginia Beach Talks: As a result of a pandemic-related decline in kindergarten students’ school readiness, Virginia Beach GrowSmart launched Virginia Beach Talks, an innovative initiative which focuses on strengthening early learning support for families and early educators interacting with young children.
  • Libraries in Laundromats: Virginia Beach Public Libraries partnered with the Laundry Cares Foundation to expand library and literacy services into the community by meeting residents “where they are” through the Libraries in Laundromats program.
  • StoryWalks®: Virginia Beach Public Libraries also created 15 different StoryWalks® to display throughout the city at libraries, schools, parks, shopping malls, festivals and community events. StoryWalks® encourage reading and movement as they share a picture book through a series of engaging signs along a path.

This year’s Pacesetter Honors theme is “Moving the Needle in Impact Areas,” with categories that include:

  • Ensure that fewer children start school so far behind
  • End chronic absence during the school year (including kindergarten)
  • Ensure that striving and struggling readers make progress during the summer
  • Address children’s health-related challenges to learning
  • Equip parents to succeed as their children’s first teachers, advocates and coaches
  • Advance, align and integrate grade-level reading and math
  • Slow learning loss and accelerate equitable learning recovery through access to the internet, tutors and out-of-school learning

“It indeed is time to move the needle in impact areas and these Pacesetter Communities demonstrate how mobilized communities are succeeding,” said Ralph Smith, managing director of CGLR. “Let us all learn and grow from recognizing and understanding what they’ve accomplished. We applaud the civic leaders and local funders whose time, talent, energy and imagination have fueled progress in these Pacesetter Communities.”

CGLR focuses on promoting early school success as an important building block of more hopeful futures for children in economically challenged families and communities. It is a collaborative effort by funders, nonprofit partners, business leaders, government agencies, states and communities to ensure that more children in low-income families succeed in school and graduate prepared for college, a career and active citizenship.

In Virginia Beach, the local grade-level reading campaign is led by Virginia Beach Virginia Beach GrowSmart along with Virginia Beach City Public Schools, Public Libraries, Department of Health, Parks and Recreation and multiple collaborative partners across the community. Virginia Beach READS focus is to ensure all children have access to quality early learning opportunities from birth and begin kindergarten ready to learn. This sets a strong foundation for their future education and life success. Virginia Beach GrowSmart is dedicated to early care and education with significant support from the following funders: Virginia Beach GrowSmart Foundation, Hampton Roads Community Foundation and Women United.

“Through our collaborative early learning initiatives, Virginia Beach READS offers innovative, science-based solutions that support children with the early literacy tools they need to be successful in school,” said Barb Lito, GrowSmart coordinator. “Our partnerships and coalition building have allowed us to ensure professionals working with our most vulnerable children have the tools proven to close the kindergarten readiness gap. As this designation shows, we’ve made measurable progress and will continue to mobilize our community by working with our schools, city agencies, nonprofits, civic leaders and parents.”

About the Campaign for Grade-Level Reading

Launched in 2010, the Campaign for Grade-Level Reading is a collaborative effort of funders, nonprofit partners, business leaders, government agencies, states and communities across the nation to ensure that many more children from low-income families succeed in school and graduate prepared for college, a career and active citizenship. Since its launch, CGLR has grown to include more than 350 communities, representing 46 states, the District of Columbia, Puerto Rico, the U.S. Virgin Islands and two provinces in Canada — with 5,200+ local organizations and 510+ state and local funders (including 200+ United Ways). To learn more, visit and follow the movement on X, @readingby3rd.

About GrowSmart

GrowSmart is operated through the Virginia Beach Department of Economic Development. GrowSmart exists to promote and improve the healthy development, school readiness and reading proficiency of young children ages 0-8. In addition to providing resources for parents and families, GrowSmart also offers programming to ensure the availability of high-quality, early education. Visit for more information.

Campaign for Grade Level Reading

Contact Information

Keep Reading

See All Posts