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Education Notebook: New book program at Hurt Park Elementary kicks off | Roanoke

Reading “My First Book of Football” to a cafeteria full of children and parents, Roanoke School Board Chairwoman Annette Lewis couldn’t help but go off-book to clear up something about her beloved Dallas Cowboys.

“That was not a Cowboy,” Lewis made clear when she read a page about fumbling. “They don’t fumble.”

Lewis brought out her jersey and other Cowboys memorabilia for the first “books and breakfast” of many that Turn the Page plans to host at Hurt Park Elementary this year. The goal is to put more books in the hands of students at the school.

This is the first year Turn the Page has worked with Roanoke schools. Until now, the nonprofit’s focused most of its efforts on infants born at Carilion Roanoke Memorial Hospital. Each baby goes home with two new books and parents get information about the importance of reading to their children from an early age.

It’s not enough to just start a child’s library, which is why Turn the Page is trying to expand its efforts to reach students when they’re older, too, co-founder Lauren Ellerman. Books can be expensive for a lot of families, especially those who are struggling financially. Turn the Page wants to level the playing field, she said.

“We’re trying to take the luxury of this away,” Ellerman said.

School board members suggested the group adopt Hurt Park, where students have struggled with statewide reading tests for several years now. Erin Ashwell, another co-founder, said the group knew its efforts would be welcomed at Hurt Park.

Several dozen children and their families showed up for the first Books and Breakfast, where students and parents alike could pick from a variety of books their favorites to take home.

Second-grader Amari Ferrell couldn’t wait until he got home to start reading his new book. His mom, Wanda, said he begged her to come to the breakfast.

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