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EARLY YEARS: Junior League of Roanoke Valley launching book and food drive for families in need

The West End Center for Youth will benefit from the drive, as overall literacy levels have dropped during the pandemic
Published: Apr. 21, 2021 at 6:22 AM EDT
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ROANOKE, Va. (WDBJ) - Makenzie Nesbit is the director of education at the West End Center for Youth.

Part of her job is to track literacy patterns, especially in students up to the third grade level.

“So, if you are not reading on the level that maybe you should be, you fall behind,” says Nesbit.

Since the pandemic began, Nesbit says she’s seen grades and literacy levels drop.

“The kids, I don’t know if it’s COVID burnout or they’re just not able to regulate their own attention,” says Nesbit.

On average, the West End Center serves 60 to 80 children each day.

Studies show most low-income households have no books in their homes.

That’s why the Junior League of Roanoke Valley is organizing a book drive.

“A lot of us Junior League members are moms who care very deeply about kids reading and doing well in school, and we know how important it is for kids to have quality educational materials,” says Katie Jones, Executive Vice President of the Junior League of Roanoke Valley.

Not only is reading crucial to learning; Nesbit says it can also provide a needed emotional break.

“A lot of the kids we serve are trauma-exposed. For a lot of kids, reading can be an escape,” she says.

Whether it’s an escape, or a path to learning, the pages of a book can help provide kids an important tool they need for success.

“Having people donate books that maybe they liked as kids or that their kids liked or loved, or books that are close to them is something that I’m hoping people do,” says Nesbit.

She adds that the West End Center is especially hoping to receive book donations that feature black protagonists, to better represent the children they serve.

Here are the details for the food and book drive:

There are two Saturday drive-thru drop-offs benefiting the West End Center and Feeding Southwest Virginia the next two Saturdays: April 24 and May 1 at Earth Fare in Roanoke from 9 a.m. until 3:00 p.m.

You can also find a link to the West End Center’s Amazon wish list.

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