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Early Literacy is Essential: The Critical Role of City's First Readers for Families in NYC

Updated: Jun 7, 2020

Thank you for the opportunity to provide testimony. I am Eliana Godoy, representing Literacy Inc. (LINC) and the

11 other nonprofit organizations that make up the Council’s Early Literacy Initiative, City’s First Readers (CFR).

We are the voice of New York City’s half million children living in poverty. City’s First Readers is the only Council

initiative that addresses the early educational needs of children, birth to age 5, to provide them with the robust

literacy services which will prepare them to succeed in school.

The public health crisis has exacerbated the literacy crisis along demographic lines because access to literacy

resources has become limited to those with private resources. Poverty derails students. Only 46% of NYC public

school children living in poverty read at grade level when they are first tested as 3rd graders. In stark contrast,

more than 74% of their more economically secure peers test as proficient (2019 NYS English Language Arts

Examination results). COVID19 will only exacerbate inequities but effective early literacy programming made

widely available can and will close the opportunity gap to prevent an achievement gap.

City’s First Readers is Essential. Today, more than ever before.

As the Council begins its FY21 budget negotiations in our vastly altered landscape, we urge you to keep early

childhood education at the core of NYC’s rebuilding efforts. Our current health crisis has been compounded by

unresolved structural challenges at the heart of our city: poverty, access to healthcare and other unaddressed

social determinants have created a perfect storm for our most vulnerable families and children are most


Investing in City’s First Readers brings equity to NYC.

Literacy levels are directly associated with improved health, economic, and social outcomes. People with low

levels of literacy:

  • do not achieve economic self sufficiency and rely on public assistance,

  • are far less civically engaged,

  • have decisively poorer health outcomes than people who read proficiently, and

  • have greater levels of involvement with the criminal justice system, at both juvenile and adult levels.

Prevention Beats Intervention.

The path out of poverty, and the single most effective and economical way to ensure proficient adult literacy

is early literacy. Investing in early literacy yields social benefits that interrupt intergenerational illiteracy. A

child who reads becomes a parent who reads. With our proactive approach, City’s First Readers is changing the

course for millions of children and for our city’s future. Making early literacy an essential priority will rebuild

New York in a way that is more equitable and provides both greater security and greater access to


Strong and robust investments in early childhood literacy programming can break cycles of poverty and

position young children for reading success. Thank you for the opportunity to speak on behalf of NYC’s half

million children living in poverty and the full coalition of CFR partners that are safeguarding our children’s

wellness, education, and future.

City’s First Readers Accomplishments

In 2014, the New York City Council took decisive action to address the literacy crisis facing New York City children, especially those living in poverty, by funding the CFR initiative. In FY19 CFR:

  • Engaged families at 463 locations across NYC that spanned every Council District meeting the challenge of targeting economically high-poverty areas where parents may not provide critically needed pre-reading activities

  • Distributed 370,000 free books and 62,101 early childhood literacy kits (books + resources, tips & strategies information)

  • Provided 975 educational workshops and 795 parent/caregiver coaching sessions empowering parents with critical skills to support their children

  • Facilitated training and professional development for childcare providers, early childhood educators and/or family childcare providers to improve the quality of their services

  • Contributed to an increase in the amount of library storytime events (up 17%) and attendance at library storytime events (up 28% from the first quarter to fourth quarter).

  • Effectively activated families to learn about and participate in early childhood literacy activities through our robust public education and marketing campaign, Read the City that achieved 18M out of home impressions and more than 900,000 social media impressions.

CFR partners do the critical work to close the opportunity gap that becomes an achievement gap. Together we ensure that children from every zip code in NYC have the chance to succeed in school, and therefore in life. How do we do this?

  • We engage upwards of 1 million constituents annually representing every borough and every single council district in early literacy programming.

  • We build home libraries that make reading possible by distributing hundreds of thousands of age-appropriate books and literacy kits to families who otherwise might not have them.

  • We empower parents and caregivers to build home literacy routines through workshops and individual coaching sessions.

  • We extend our messaging through our robust public education and marketing campaign Read the City and activate families to engage with our work.

Eliana Godoy is the Director of Advancement, Communication and Advocacy for Literacy, Inc. (LINC). LINC is the

facilitating partner of the New York City Council’s early literacy initiative. Thank you for the opportunity to present on behalf of the full coalition of CFR partners including: Brooklyn Public Library, The Committee for Hispanic Children and Families, Hunts Point Alliance for Children, JCCA, Jumpstart, Literacy Inc, New Alternatives for Children, New York Public Library, ParentChild+, Queens Public Library, Reach Out & Read of Greater New York, and Video Interaction Project.

For more information, contact Emily Gertz, Director of Strategic Initiatives, Literacy Inc. (LINC):


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