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Maya Smart returns to Richmond for “Reading For Our Lives” event April 25th

Richmond Public Library, Richmond Public Library Foundation, and The Friends of the Richmond Public Library are teaming up to raise awareness of alarming data that shows nearly 60% of Richmond children are not ready for kindergarten.

Trevor Dickerson

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Richmond Public Library, Richmond Public Library Foundation, and The Friends of the Richmond Public Library are teaming up to raise awareness of alarming data that shows nearly 60% of Richmond children are not ready for kindergarten. To address the issue, the library groups have enlisted the help of Maya Payne Smart and invited her back to Richmond for a day-long literacy forum.

Smart, a literary advocate, and author, recently published Reading for Our Lives: A Literacy Action Plan from Birth to Six. The book highlights the importance of parents interacting and having conversations with their babies to lay the foundation for future learning. Smart is the wife of Shaka Smart, former Head Coach of Men’s Basketball at Virginia Commonwealth University, and was the 2014 Richmond Christmas Mother. She says she still maintains close ties to Richmond and is honored to return and discuss the ways parents can help their children succeed.

“I’m most passionate about public libraries because they are the only place where everyone is totally welcome to walk in,” explained Ms. Smart.

Smart, an alumna of Harvard and Northwestern universities shares, “Standardized assessments are valuable but limited, alert systems,” adding, “Alarms ring; they don’t teach.”

She will share creative, easy, and fun ways to engage in reading and learning to help parents and caregivers prepare children for school. Her day in Richmond includes conversations with civic leaders and child-focused organizations, followed by Story Time at the Main Library. Her visit will conclude with a free public forum where she will serve as Keynote Speaker. Event honorary co-chairs are Meg Medina, National Ambassador for Young People’s Literature, and the Honorable Jennifer McClellan.

“As the child of educators and mother of two children in Richmond Public Schools, I have long understood the importance of early childhood learning and literacy. Building literacy from an early age is a way to increase equity and build strong communities,” said Congresswoman McClellan. “Libraries play an integral role in these efforts and have a major impact in our communities. Connecting with neighborhood libraries means connecting to resources and trained staff dedicated to answering the needs of our communities. I applaud Maya’s ability to shine a light on how we, as a community, can support families through coordinated efforts. The logical place for this coordinated support is in partnership with our local libraries. Let’s come together in a way that supports our Richmond families.”

Fellow honorary co-chair Meg Medina, National Ambassador for Young People’s Literature shared, “Maya Payne Smart offers a living example of how to make books and stories a joyful part of children’s lives as well as a vehicle to lift communities. Whether through her engaging blog series, her community leadership roles, or as an author, she has a track record of using practical ideas to inspire people and connect them.”

Smart is scheduled to speak from 7 P.M. – 8 P.M., in the Robins Family Forum at the Virginia Museum of History and Culture. Her book will be available for purchase, and she will be available to autograph copies after her speech. The event is free and open to the public. Her visit coincides with National Library Week (See attached for a full list of events). For additional information or to schedule an interview, contact Scott Firestine, Library Director, Richmond Public Library, at [email protected] or (804) 646-4550.

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