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June 8, 2017

Elected officials partner with Uncommon Schools and Reading Partners to promote Summer Reading

Originally published by Kings County Politics.

Uncommon Schools joined with Reading Partners New York City and local elected officials at the Brooklyn Public Library’s Brownsville branch to kick off Brownsville Reads, a program to encourage students to keep reading through the summer.

State Sen. Jesse Hamilton (D-Central Brooklyn),  Assemblywoman Latrice Walker (D-Brownsville) and City Councilman Rafael Espinal (Bushwick, East New York, Ocean Hill-Brownsville) partnered with Uncommon to host the event at the library branch Thursday afternoon.

The community event drew nearly 100 children in grades K-8 along with their parents. The students were from both New York City district schools and Uncommon Schools, a high-performing charter network that operates 22 schools in Brooklyn and serves 7,500 predominantly low income students.

“Brownsville Reads is a great opportunity to kick off summer reading for our youngsters and promote the importance of reading during the school vacation months,” Hamilton said.

Hamilton, Walker and Angelica Flores, the district office director in Espinal’s office, read books to the children, along with Mahari Simmonds and Claudia Von Nostitz from Reading Partners.

“I am passionate about literacy and libraries because they are essential building blocks for our young children, families, and communities,” Walker said.

The main goal of the program is to stop the “Summer Slide,” a well-documented phenomenon in which students, especially those from low-income families, lose the achievement gains they made during the school year.

“In a community like this, this is great, it reinforces what we have been teaching at home,” said Devina Glover, whose son, daughter, and husband participated in the event.

“We don’t have many activities like this that merge fun activities with academics and education,” she said. “We also have community leaders here reinforcing that education and reading are important, which is exactly what we need to see.”

During the event, four Kindle hand-held electronic reading devices were raffled as well as subscriptions to National Geographic and gift cards to Barnes & Noble. Students entering kindergarten in the fall were also given “I’m Ready for Kindergarten” workbooks created by Uncommon Schools. Every student left with several books as well. All items were donated.

“Brownsville Reads is an excellent opportunity for the community to come together to encourage our families to read over the summer,” Espinal said. “Reading is important especially to keep students’ minds active while school is out of session.”

It was the first time Uncommon had partnered with Reading Partners and the elected officials to host a summer reading kick-off event. But given how successful the program was, it will likely become a regular event in Brooklyn.

“The goal was to kick off summer reading, which is why we gave away hundreds of books and encourage families to get library cards,” said Natasha Cherry-Perez, who manages Uncommon’s community engagement work in Brooklyn. “We are so grateful for our elected officials’ leadership in this project.

“Kids from both Uncommon Schools and district schools walked away with enthusiasm and excitement about reading over the summer,” said Cherry-Perez, who is also an Uncommon parent.

Many of the parents who attended the event said they appreciated efforts to ensure children were encouraged to continue reading over the summer. Participants thanked Paul Levy, the branch manager, for making the library available to host the event.

“This was a beautiful event, especially in this neighborhood,” said Latoya Talbert, whose son was a lucky winner of a Kindle. “It’s a really good idea to bring kids together to celebrate reading.”

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