Mayor Ras J. Baraka, United Way of Essex and West Hudson CEO Catherine Wilson, Newark Public Library Director Jeffrey Trzeciak, Newark City of Learning Collaborative Executive Director Reginald Lewis, the Newark Board of Education, Audible.com, and Panasonic Foundation Executive Director Alejandra Ceja launched a comprehensive Newark literacy initiative for the entire city this morning at the Newark Public Library Main Branch, located at 5 Washington Street in the city’s downtown. The initiatives will include intergenerational literacy coaching. Anchor Partners donated $100,000 to #NewarkReads, including $80,000 from Panasonic alone.
The Mayor’s Book Club will start in June 2019, with a sixth to eighth grade pilot and a high school-adult segment will follow in September. The Newark Literacy Coalition will provide residents of all ages with approaches to improve reading, writing, listening, and thinking skills for residents of all ages, focusing on adult literacy and birth to third-grade interventions.
“A love of reading can foster a lifetime of success,” said Mayor Baraka. “I am excited to announce the formation of #NewarkReads, a citywide literacy coalition, and lead the charge to increase reading, writing, and higher level thinking skills, by challenging the youth and the adults of Newark to participate in the Mayor’s Book Club. The summer selections will connect youth to books that will educate, empower and inspire them. High school – adult selections will begin in the fall. This book club will connect residents in all of our neighborhoods in thought-provoking discussions, as residents read book club selections.”
“The Newark Public Library is proud to partner on this important initiative,” said Mr. Trzeciak. “Literacy is a fundamental component of the services we provide. As such, the Library looks forward to working collaboratively with the City of Newark and community partners to increase literacy rates among youth, families and adults.”
“As a global tech leader, Panasonic is proud to support initiatives that transform communities and support 21st century career readiness skills,” said Alejandra Ceja, executive director, Panasonic Foundation and Office of Corporate Social Responsibility. “The future of work will require strong literacy coupled with STEM proficiency and our commitment to #NewarkReads is an investment in the people of Newark and our global economy. This is just one example of how collaboratively, we can work towards a better life, a better world.”
According to available statistics, 47,000 Newark adults lacked basic prose literacy skills, and 56 percent of Newark youth scored partially proficient on NJ ASK and HSPA standardized literacy tests. Almost 90 percent of the students who scored partially proficient on these tests came from economically disadvantaged families. These literacy statistics place Newark the bottom six percent of all New Jersey districts. This gap ties directly to a lifelong economic opportunity gap and has financial, social, and civic consequences for individuals as well as Newark as a whole.
Nationwide, approximately 32 million adults cannot read, according to the US Department of Education and the National Institute of Literacy. 50 percent of US adults cannot read a book written at an eighth-grade level. Scores on the National Assessment of Educational Progress are considered “catastrophically low” for children of color. Nationally, only 18 percent of black and 21 percent of Latino students tested “above proficient” in reading by the end of fourth grade. As of 2011, America is the only free-market Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development nation where the current generation was less-educated than the previous one.
Anchor Partners in the program include the Mayor’s Office of Comprehensive Community Education, Newark Public Schools, the United Way of Essex & West Hudson, Panasonic, Newark City of Learning Collaborative, the Newark Public Library, and Audible.Com.
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