This pandemic has revealed structural inequities that are creating daunting challenges for our most vulnerable families, but are also validating our mission as essential. In addition to quickly developing daily digital programming and sustaining personal contact with our program participants, we are also reaching out to elected officials, starting at the municipal level, to voice our concern. Our goal is to ensure children and education remain top priorities as we rebuild our city.
Following is a letter we sent to the Speaker and Chairs of the Finance, Education and Health Committees of the New York City Council.
April 9, 2020
Dear Speaker Johnson, Councilmembers Dromm, Treyger, and Levine:
Thank you for the Council’s sensible response to the Preliminary Budget. You clearly identified the city’s immediate priorities in the wake of COVID-19. These priorities will rebuild New York in a way that is more equitable and provide not only greater security but greater access to opportunity.
As the Council begins its FY21 budget negotiations in our vastly altered landscape, we at Literacy, Inc. (LINC) urge you to keep our children’s education and wellbeing at the core of our rebuilding efforts. Please do not lose sight of long-term challenges in the face of these extraordinary current demands. Indeed, our current crisis has been exacerbated by unsolved 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 right now.
Literacy levels are directly associated with improved health, economic, and social outcomes. People with low levels of literacy do not achieve economic self sufficiency, are far less civically engaged, and have decisively poorer health outcomes than people who read proficiently. Left unaddressed, the literacy crisis drains our nation of $225 billion a year in social costs and loss of productivity. The path out of poverty, and the single most effective and economical way to ensure proficient adult literacy is early literacy.
LINC, like many institutions and organizations, has quickly adapted to respond to the constraints of social distancing and school disruption with daily digital programming. We sustain families in high need neighborhoods across the city, encouraging them to find comfort in daily reading. We are not allowing today’s disruptions affect tomorrow’s needs for solutions. Children who read become scientists and doctors who cure tomorrow’s virus, who solve the environmental challenges facing our world, become engineers who address infrastructure shortfalls and design more efficient buildings, become leaders addressing novel challenges we have not yet foreseen. These last weeks have reminded us that sudden crises require preparation. Quality education is at the core of preparation and literacy at the core of education. On behalf of the children and families we serve, our board and staff, I thank you for leading us to a better place.
PS LINC as the backbone partner for the New York City Council’s early literacy initiative, City’s First Readers, we are leading a collaboration to adapt its public awareness campaign “Read The City” to our new circumstances. I will be in touch with updates on that effort shortly.