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Reflections on Roanoke Valley Reads

Several months ago, Blue Ridge Literacy was approached with an unexpected offer-- the founders of the community-wide reading program, Roanoke Valley Reads, felt that the program had outgrown its volunteer roots and needed year-round organizational support to truly reach it’s potential. Would Blue Ridge Literacy consider taking it on, given our shared understanding of the power and importance of literacy?

We saw the mission match immediately, and after many long discussions, decided to turn RVR into an official program of Blue Ridge Literacy. We were excited, to be sure, but also very uncertain of what the future of RVR would hold. We picked the book based off of the recommendation of the past RVR Reading Committee, and began brainstorming possible events. Obviously a visit from the author was top on our list, and we quickly got confirmation that Amy Waldman, the author, was able and willing to come. The panel discussion and film screening ideas quickly followed, as did our decision to add Youth Reads books to make RVR accessible to people of all ages.

We took on this program late enough that there was a real time crunch to get everything planned and arranged, and we have been overwhelmed and awed by how enthusiastically the Roanoke community (individuals, nonprofits, community organizations and businesses alike) have responded.

Our screening of Inside Islam at the Grandin Theatre saw the main theatre almost completely full, and was followed by a very stimulating discussion on the nature of Islam. Our panel discussion (Overcoming Fear and Mistrust In the Valley) drew almost 100 participants, all of whom engaged in active conversation with our panelists about how to overcome our initial fear when we encounter those who are different than us, and build a stronger community. Our culminating event, a talk by author of The Submission, Amy Waldman, was also a big success: Her eloquent speech was followed by several thoughtful questions from community members, as well as a book signing.

Overall, we really couldn’t be happier with how Roanoke Valley Reads 2016 turned out, and we have the Roanoke community to thank for that-- planning events only goes so far. It’s the participants that really makes events what they are, and Roanoke made our events great.

Many thanks to the many people who helped us by spreading the word, providing financial support, and providing space or other resources. That list includes, but is not limited to: The Roanoke Times, Virginia Foundation for the Humanities, Woods Rogers PLC, Bella Magazine, Roanoke Public Libraries, ColorsVa, Jefferson Center, The Grandin Theatre, Points of Diversity, Local Colors, MCC of the Blue Ridge, Star City Reads, Commonwealth Catholic Charities, Devine Building Services, all our panelists, and the many book clubs, churches and community members who participated.

If you got a lot from Roanoke Valley Reads and would like to support us, you can do so here:…/bl…/campaigns/roanoke-valley-reads

If you have future book suggestions or would like to be involved with RVR 2017, please email

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