Experts Examine Strategies to Raise Third Grade Reading Levels

2014 Growing Healthy Readers: Half-Day Literacy Conference

October 31, 2014 –New York, NY – What do children need to thrive in their early years and read proficiently by third grade?

Leading experts in education and child development gathered to answer this question at the Growing Healthy Readers: Half-Day Literacy Conference, hosted by Reach Out and Read of Greater New York, United Way of New York City, and Scholastic Inc. The conference was held on Thursday, October 30, 2014 at the Scholastic headquarters in Manhattan.

Richard Buery, New York City Deputy Mayor for Strategic Policy Initiatives, opened the conference in conversation with Sheena Wright, President and CEO of United Way of New York City, and WNBC-TV Government Affairs reporter, Melissa Russo, who moderated. Together, they discussed the city’s implementation of universal Pre-K and other initiatives to improve reading levels among city children.

“Mayor Bill de Blasio believes that early education is fundamentally important to children’s literacy, curiosity, and exploration throughout their lives,” said Deputy Mayor Buery. “That is why the de Blasio administration is committed to providing Pre-K for All and building a strong foundation for students to begin their educational journey and set them up for a lifetime of learning. We are excited to work with partners like Reach Out and Read and Scholastic in this endeavor.”

“We all know that reading proficiency is the first step of a critical pathway in preparing children for success. Children who learn-to-read, can then read-to-learn, which is the key to the door of future opportunity,” said Sheena Wright, President and CEO of United Way of New York City.  “We applaud the de Blasio administration for their commitment to universal Pre-K, and the ready-to-read students it will produce. We are also proud to be their most significant partner in implementing the community schools initiative which will build on their work in Pre-K.”

A shocking 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. Conference speakers focused on solutions that help at-risk children successfully meet the critical third-grade reading milestone when children need to have mastered fundamental reading skills to successfully navigate the complex texts they will encounter from 4th grade through high school.

“We must do everything we can to address childhood literacy rates in New York City and invest in the future of our children,” said City Council Member Stephen Levin, one of the conference speakers and co-sponsor of City’s First Readers, a City Council early literacy initiative. “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.”

Council Member Antonio Reynoso, who co-sponsored City’s First Readers, added: “Council Member Levin and I were proud to co-sponsor a new City Council initiative this year to dedicate resources to early childhood literacy in New York City.  This issue is hugely important, particularly for children from low-income communities, and this conference highlights the importance of engaging those communities to improve reading skills at an early age for long-term success.”

Additional speakers included researchers, doctors, and educators at the forefront of child development and advocacy.

Conference Speakers (listed alphabetically)

KARINE APOLLON
VP and General Manager, Scholastic Classroom & Community Group

RICHARD R. BUERY, JR.
Deputy Mayor for Strategic Policy Initiatives, Office of the Mayor of New York City

J. EMILIO CARRILLO, MD, MPH
Vice President of Community Health Development, New York-Presbyterian Hospital

ESTHER KLEIN FRIEDMAN, PhD
Executive Director, Literacy and Academic Intervention Services, New York City Department of Education

TANYA FRIEDMAN
Senior Associate, Safir and Associates

DELANEY GRACY, MD, MPH
Chief Medical Officer, Senior Vice President Medical Affairs, Children’s Health Fund

MONIQUE HARDIN-CORDERO
Program Director, Reach Out and Read of Greater New York

FRANK HERNANDEZ
I.A. Principal, P.S. 49 Willis Avenue, Hub Area of the South Bronx

ELIZABETH ISAKSON, MD
Co-Director, Docs for Tots

JACQUELINE JENKINS, PhD
VP, Learning, Research & Intelligence, United Way of New York City

TOVAH KLEIN, PhD
Director, Barnard College Center for Toddler Development and Author, How Toddlers Thrive

STEPHEN LEVIN
New York City Council Member, District 33

ARACELIS LUCERO
Executive Director, MASA, Inc.

ANGEL MARTINEZ
Parent Leader, New Settlement Parent Action Committee (Member of the New York City Coalition for Educational Justice)

SUSAN B. NEUMAN, PhD
Professor and Chair,Teaching and Learning Department, NYU Steinhardt School of Culture, Education and Human Development

ANTONIO REYNOSO
New York City Council Member, District 34

MELISSA RUSSO
Government Affairs Reporter, NBC 4 New York

ANTHONY TASSI
CEO, Literacy Partners

SHEENA WRIGHT
CEO, United Way of New York City

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About Scholastic
Scholastic’s mission is built on helping children learn to read and love to read. We believe that independent reading is a critical part of children’s learning and growth. With support from teachers, parents, and schools, children choose from Scholastic the books they want to read, and discover the pleasure and power of reading. Finding the right book at the right time can light an emotional spark within children that motivates them to read more, understand more, and read joyfully. When that happens, the world opens. Everything becomes possible.

About United Way of New York City
For more than 75 years, United Way of New York City has been the activist inside, working deep within the system to weave a net of interconnected solutions to catch our poorest neighbors. We orchestrate hundreds of partners in a symphony of hope, and mobilize communities to break down barriers and build opportunities that improve the lives of low-income New Yorkers for the benefit of all. We help ensure that short-term needs are being met while simultaneously working on long-term solutions to the city’s most intractable problems. We envision caring communities where all individuals and families have access to quality education and the opportunity to lead healthy and financially secure lives. We are the activists inside, working to make New York City work for every New Yorker. Follow, Like and Pin us, and learn more at unitedwaynyc.org.

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