City Council Funds Early Childhood Literacy Initiative

NEW YORK--()--New York City Council Members and children’s literacy advocates celebrated a unique victory for New York City families today: a $1.5 million dollar investment to help parents raise their youngest children to be strong and proficient readers.

The funding was part of the newly adopted city budget and will support the Early Childhood Literacy Initiative, which targets children 0-5 years old. This initiative is a collaboration of eight organizations already working to turn young children into accomplished readers. Through coordinated services, each organization can serve more children and families to develop literacy skills in young children.

Organizations receiving funding to implement the Early Childhood Literacy Initiative include:

  • 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

Council Member Stephen Levin (33rd District) and Council Member Antonio Reynoso (34th District), with the support of Speaker Melissa Mark-Viverito championed the inclusion of the Early Childhood Literacy Initiative in the City budget. The Council’s leadership and vision in tackling a systemic problem enhance the Mayor and Chancellor’s expansion of universal Pre-K.

“If we want to help our children succeed throughout their lives then we have to put resources into their development starting at an early age,” said Council Member Levin. “The Early Childhood Literacy Initiative addresses distressing childhood literacy rates in New York City and invests in the future of our children. I am proud to have fought for these important resources for our children and want to thank Speaker Mark-Viverito, Council Member Reynoso, and the many advocates for children who worked tirelessly on this initiative.”

Council Member Reynoso remarked, “This initiative takes a proactive step toward addressing the disparity in literacy rates across the city, with a specific focus on helping the youngest children in our low-income communities and their families take early steps toward success that can make a major difference later in life. I would like to express my thanks to the Council and the Speaker for supporting this important initiative.”

The Early Childhood Literacy Initiative responds to alarming childhood literacy rates in New York City which show that 72% of New York City’s public school children do not read proficiently by the end of third grade, with children from poor and low-income households disproportionately facing the greatest literacy challenges. There is a direct correlation between 3rd grade reading proficiency and high school graduation rates.

The City Council recognized that one of the best ways to help children to excel in 3rd grade is to make sure that they have abundant language exposure during their early years to serve as a strong foundation for continuous learning. This collaboration has the potential to reduce the disparity between middle class children, who average 1,000 hours of being read to prior to starting kindergarten, and children from high poverty families, who experience a mere 25 hours of being read to during the same time period in their early lives.

Engaging parents to create a more language- and literacy-rich home life for their children is at the heart of the Early Childhood Literacy Initiative. 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 is a real success story for New York City families,” said Traci Lester, Executive Director of Reach Out and Read of Greater New York. “This kind of collaboration is what New York needs to bring about change and impact the city's neediest families. 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.”

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.”

“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.

“The Library is very thankful to City Council Speaker Mark-Viverito, Councilmembers Levin and Reynoso, and the City Council for this important funding, which will enhance the Library's early childhood literacy initiative, and open new doors of opportunity for the children that we serve,” said NYPL President Tony Marx. “The programs we provide help children learn to read, which significantly improves their futures and our city.”

“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.


Literacy Inc.
Lenore Feder, 212-846-7120


Literacy Inc.
Lenore Feder, 212-846-7120