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City’s First Readers Program to fight NYC’s early literacy crisis

November 13, 2014 Brooklyn Daily Eagle
Councilmember Stephen Levin. Eagle file photo
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On the steps of City Hall on Wednesday, Councilmembers Stephen Levin (33rd District) and Antonio Reynoso (34th District) announced the City’s First Readers Program to fight New York City’s early literacy crisis. 

Alarmingly, 70% of New York City’s third grade students are reading below grade level. Once they fall behind, it becomes increasingly difficult for them to catch up. The program, established as a result of a $1.5 million investment by the New York City Council, will support a coalition of eight organizations that are working with young children, helping them to become strong and accomplished readers.

“The First Readers Program will introduce our city’s youngest scholars to the wide world of literacy at an early age, building a strong foundation for when it comes time to start school,” said City Council Speaker Melissa Mark Viverito.

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Levin stated that “with disparate literacy rates seen throughout New York City, too many of our children are at a disadvantage when they start their education.  The City’s First Readers Program addresses this directly and will help our children become more knowledgeable and enthusiastic readers. With a steady stream of guidance, workshops and resources, City’s First Readers will prepare the youth of today to be the successful adults of tomorrow.”

The literacy coalition of providers is made up of the following organizations includes Brooklyn Public Library, Jumpstart for Young Children, Literacy, Inc. (LINC), New York Public Library, Parent-Child Home Program, Queens Library, Reach Out and Read of Greater New York and Video Interaction Project.

Reynoso added that “City’s First Reader’s program is going to target youth ages 0-5 with a goal of having all these children ultimately reading at grade level, which is not the case currently. Seventy percent of children do not read proficiently by the end of third grade and we must change that.”

Engaging parents to create a more language and literacy-rich home life for children is at the heart of the City’s First Reader’s Program. Its goal is to foster literacy development through a network of supports, starting with a child’s earliest doctor visits and extending throughout the community to provide families with a steady stream of guidance, parenting workshops and resources to raise their babies into tomorrow’s competent and enthusiastic readers.

“This tremendous investment from the City Council will help ensure that Brooklyn’s youngest readers start school ready to learn”, said Linda E. Johnson, president and CEO of Brooklyn Public Library.  As a partner in the Early Childhood Literacy Initiative, this funding will allow us to launch interactive early literacy spaces across the borough, expand workshops that help parents engage young children in reading activities, increase baby and toddler programs at high-demand and high-need libraries, and purchase thousands of new children’s books.” 

For more information on the New York City First Reader’s program, visit

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—Information from the Offices of Councilmember Stephen Levin and Antonio Reynoso



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