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How City’s First Readers Partner to Improve Literacy

Updated: Sep 22, 2023

Did you know that 51% of NYC students cannot read at grade level? And when you look closely, the numbers grow worse: Only 42% of children living in poverty score is proficient on state tests and only 35% of Hispanic students and 37% of Black students read at grade level.

The literacy crisis disproportionately affects BIPOC families. This is why LINC provides capacity building support through its collective impact work, in addition to providing direct programs. On Wednesday, September 13, LINC's Chief Program Officer, Laura Walsh, presented a training on The Science of Reading at the Brooklyn Public Library Back to School Fair to support over 110 librarians as they get ready to work with families across Brooklyn. Both Literacy, INC (LINC) and Brooklyn Public Library are part of City’s First Readers (CFR), an initiative of the New York City Council that unites seventeen organizations to address the early learning needs of families with children, five and under. This is how CFR partners collaborate to maximize resources that expand the quality and access of early childhood literacy programming across New York City.

“Our brain is hardwired to speak, not to read. Word Recognition and Language Comprehension are woven into skilled reading and LINC meets families early, from day one so that they learn to use both of them to become successful readers.” said Laura. She started with a simple reading exercise to demonstrate her point and asked participants to read made-up words to illustrate how reading begins with decoding skills. It involves looking at letters, identifying sounds, producing those sounds and blending them together. "Zop and ort are not real words and do not contain any meaning, and sometimes it’s easier to understand what something is when we recognize what it is NOT,” clarified Laura.

LINC uses approachable exercises in our workshops that don’t require caregivers to know science to help their children. With LINC, families and communities read, learn, and grow together. LINC’s programs connect families to each other and to resources that they can use to build reading routines at home, inspiring their children to become lifelong readers who are prepared to achieve in school and beyond. Our programs are practical, easy to follow. We build on incremental levels of family and caregier engagement, starting with joyful community reading events laced with activities, music and creativity. Parent Workshop topics are tiered by child age:

  • Baby Blocks (birth - 1 year old)

  • Stepping Stones Academy (2 - 3 years old)

  • Learn N’ Play (4 - 5 years old)

The programs at each age level offer three distinct developmentally appropriate topics, with 4 sessions on each topic. Our deepest engagement comes with programming we provide to volunteers who learn how to deliver those joyful community reading events, extending our reach and making reading visible and valued in a LINC neighborhood.

If you would like to learn more about LINC's Community Literacy Model, please visit


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