Literacy initiative kicks off in local school

Students from P.S. 179 and their principal, (Font Williams, in red) celebrate the delivery of more than 4,000 books to their in-classroom library on March 2. Photo: United Way of NYC

The summer reading lists for students at several Mott Haven public schools just grew exponentially, thanks to two nonprofit organizations aiming to raise literacy rates in low-income New York City neighborhoods.

United Way of New York City and News Corp collaborated to donate more than 13,000 books to six local schools designated ReadNYC schools. They then delivered 4,000 books to P.S. 179 and P.S. 369 on East 140th Street last week to kick off this year’s Spread the Word initiative.

The initiative calls for providing grade-level books likeWhen Grandmama Sings and A Chair for Always to introduce children to characters and scenarios that relate to their lives.

Studies show that children in low-income neighborhoods who do not read at grade-level by third grade are 74% more likely to drop out of high school. Since ReadNYC’s inception, there has been an increase of 50 percent in the number of students testing at a proficient level on the 3rd grade ELA exams in schools that participate in the program, the organizers say.

Kindergarten students P.S. 179 from spent the morning of March 2—Dr. Seuss’ birthday—listening to News Corp members read them from some of the good doctor’s classics and made their very own Cat in the Hat crafts.

“No single person or organization can do this work alone—it will take all of us partnering together to ensure every student has the opportunity to succeed and reach their full potential,” said Sheena Wright, President and CEO of United Way of New York City.