Speaker And Council Members Announce the NYC Council Literacy Initiative

NEW YORK— on the steps of City Hall this morning, Council Members Stephen Levin (33rd District) and Antonio Reynoso (34th District) came together to fight New York City’s early literacy crisis and launch the City’s First Readers Program. 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 $1.5M investment by the New York City Council, will support a coalition of 8 organizations who are working with young children, helping them to become strong and accomplished readers.
“This is just one of many steps that the Council is taking, along with Mayor de Blasio, to get New York City’s children started off on the right foot. Together with universal pre-k, the First Readers Program will work to address the disparity in literacy rates across the City and help the youngest children in low-income communities get the boost they need to keep up with their fellow classmates,” said Speaker Melissa Mark Viverito.
Councilmember Stephen 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. I’m proud to support City’s First Readers and want to thank Speaker Mark-Viverito, Council Member Reynoso, and the rest of my colleagues on the City Council for funding this important initiative.”
The literacy coalition of providers is made up of the following organizations:

  • 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
  • Video Interaction Project

Councilmember Antonio Reynoso added that “The 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. 70% of children do not read proficiently by the end of third grade and we must change that.”
Council Members Levin and Reynoso also emphasized that engaging parents to create a more language and literacy-rich home life for children is at the heart of the 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.
Literacy, Inc. (LINC) Executive Director, Shari Levine, observed “Every community has literacy resources that can be developed to support emerging readers.  This initiative will provide the funding to make that happen and strengthen the impact of each organization’s programmatic expertise through the power of our partnership. LINC thanks the entire Council, particularly the Speaker and Councilmembers Levin and Reynoso, for their commitment to supporting the Early Childhood Initiative.”
“The first five years of life are the most critical years for brain development,” said Monique Hardin-Cordero, Program Director for Reach Out and Read of Greater New York.  “This literacy network will ensure that our youngest New Yorkers have the support they need to become strong, healthy readers.  Reach Out and Read of Greater New York thanks City Council Speaker Melissa Mark Viverito, Council Member Levin and Council Member Reynoso for standing behind our work to make reading part of a healthy childhood for all of New York’s children.”
“Support from NYC Council Speaker Mark-Viverito and Council Members Levin and Reynoso on this Literacy Initiative showcases how essential it is that we work as a community to address the achievement gap in pre-k and grammar school-aged children,” said Kerri Osborne, Regional Vice President Tri-State of Jumpstart. “This collaboration is critical. Collectively we can better serve some of the most underserved neighborhoods in our city, bringing a brighter future to NYC families.”
“This initiative recognizes the critical continuum of support services that are required to increase parent-child interaction, foster early literacy, and ensure grade-level reading,” said Sarah Walzer, CEO of Parent-Child Home Program.  “We are honored to be a part of this initiative and gratefully applaud City Council Speaker Melissa Mark Viverito, Council Member Levin and Council Member Reynoso for their commitment to ensuring that every family has the opportunity to discover the joy of reading together.”
“The scope of this initiative is truly breathtaking,” noted Alan Mendelsohn MD, Associate Professor of Pediatrics and Population Health, and Carolyn Cates PhD, Assistant Professor and Director of the Video Interaction Project at New York University School of Medicine and Bellevue Hospital Center. “The programs to be supported uniquely impact families during the critical period of early brain development from birth to 5 years before children start school. This may be the first time that so many innovative, effective groups seeking to promote early literacy will work together to give all children an equal chance of succeeding in school and in life.” Children of Bellevue, Inc. and the Bellevue Project for Early Language Literacy and Education Success (BELLE) thank Council Members Stephen Levin and Antonio Reynoso and the entire New York City Council for their leadership in this incredibly important initiative.”
“City’s First Readers is a remarkable opportunity for The New York Public Library to expand the fundamental programs we offer to New York’s next generation of readers. The Library is honored to be a gateway to a child’s first experience with reading – more than 118,000 children have attended the Library’s storytime programs this year supported by our dedicated staff and diverse collections. Working with councilmembers Reynoso and Levin and our partners in this wonderful new initiative, we will be able to ensure that the experience of reading is both educational and inspiring,” said NYPL President Tony Marx.
“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. We are grateful to Council Member Levin, Council Member Reynoso, and Speaker Melissa Mark-Viverito for their leadership on this exciting initiative.”
“As conveners of the NYC Early Learning Network, Queens Library is committed to helping our youngest New Yorkers blossom into intellectually active and successful adults. We look forward to working with other community-based and educational organizations to create robust readers. We thank Speaker Melissa Mark-Viverito, Council Members Stephen Levin and Antonio Reynoso, and the entire City Council for their leadership.” Bridget Quinn-Carey, Executive VP and COO, Queens Library.
For more information on the New York City First Reader’s program, please visit:


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