A large number of non-profit organizations have been working together to improve the literacy rate in the city by getting youngsters interested in reading books at an early age.
Working under what is called Paterson Reads, an effort to get every elementary school child reading, the organizations came together in the Danforth Memorial Library on Wednesday morning to discuss accomplishments and future plans.
Cindy Czesak, director of the Paterson Public Library, which operated a summer reading program, said she grew concerned upon realizing, that most city students were not coming into the libraries during their summer break. “Many of the children in Paterson,” said Czesak, “were not coming to the library during the day as might occur in a lot of the suburban towns.”
With 25 volunteers the library collected 2,000 children, who were read to by volunteers; and each of the child was encouraged to go through three reading exercises per a week, in total 20,000 hours were spent reading books by children. “It’s the effort, and not counting the books,” said Czesak.
During that same period, summer 2013, the library registered 4,000 youngsters by deploying its purple reading mobile, a truck that traveled around the city encouraging youngsters to obtain a library card to check out books. The library’s policy of seeing a parent signature before using a card was spurned for the greater good of promoting literacy – a “barrier” was removed, said Czesak. “Let’s give them a card to allow them to check out books,” said Czesak. “There will be some loss, but the most important thing to us is to put books into the hands of kids.”
Donnie Evans, public schools superintendent, attended the meeting to share literacy statistics with the organizations. Since 2011, there has been a 5-percent increase in NJASK, a state exam, scores in language arts, for grades 3-8: in 2011, 35.5-percent of grade schoolers were proficient; in 2013, 40.1-percent of grader schoolers were proficient. However, there was a slight declines in score for grades 3-5: in 2012 the scores stood at 35.1-percent; in 2013 the score stood at 34.6-pecent, marking a 0.4-percent decline.
The organizations and the school districts are not the only ones wishing to see students reading at grade level, the Henry and Marilyn Taub Foundation, wishes to see the same, by providing grants to organizations pushing to increase literacy. The foundation issued $30,000 to the library; $20,000 to Meadowlink; $20,000 to New Destiny Family Center; $20,000 to Passaic County Community College Child Development Center; $10,000 to Reach Out and Read NJ; $5,000 to Read to Know; $20,000 to United Way of Passaic County; and $5,000 to Bridge Hope CDC.
Each of these organizations have said the money will be used to expand the efforts of their programs in promoting literacy. For example, United Way was issued the aforementioned grant to tutor 1st graders from Edward W. Kilpatrick, an elementary school.
“Over 7,000 books checked out — children’s books checked out in July,” said Czesak. “Now kids know we’re coming.”