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New York City Children's Theater Partners with NYC Schools for After-School Reading Program

New York City Children's Theater Partners with NYC Schools for After-School Reading Program

Recently, Schools Chancellor Carmen Fariña visited the Flushing Family Residence to announce the Afterschool Reading Club, a brand-new literacy enrichment pilot for elementary school students living in shelters. This is the DOE's first citywide literacy-focused after school effort in shelters, and the pilot reflects the Administration's dedication to supporting the needs of students in temporary housing, and its commitment across all NYC's public schools to strengthening early literacy instruction and engaging parents as partners in students' education.

"As a longtime elementary school teacher and principal, I know how critical building an early foundation in literacy is - it's truly the foundation of equity and excellence in education. We are investing more than ever in early literacy, including our Universal Literacy initiative which will place dedicated reading coaches in every elementary school, and the Afterschool Reading Club pilot demonstrates our commitment to reaching every student and family and meeting their needs," said Schools Chancellor Carmen Fariña .

"We know that homeless families need more than a roof over their heads. That's why we are proud to partner with the Department of Education and others to promote literacy and provide other critical educational support for children living in shelter," said Department of Social Services Commissioner Steven Banks .

The DOE is piloting Afterschool Reading Club in 18 shelter sites this school year - 7 in the Bronx, 6 in Brooklyn, 1 in Manhattan, and 4 in Queens. Afterschool Reading Club meets three days a week for 3 hours a day, and is taught by DOE teachers. It includes reading instruction, homework help, and arts programming that helps students develop their literacy skills. Afterschool Reading Club is administered by the DOE's Office of Curriculum, Instruction, and Professional Learning.

As part of the pilot, shelter libraries are being expanded, and the DOE is providing free books to students each week so they can build their own libraries and read with their families. Afterschool Reading Club teachers and shelter staff are also working to engage parents and families, with the goal of bringing families together to read.

The pilot started in October, and across its first six weeks and hundreds of students and their families have already participated in Afterschool Reading Club. There are about 1400 students grades K-5 - who attend over 400 schools across all five boroughs - in these 18 shelters. Teachers and shelter staff continue to reach out to families to ensure they know about this program and encourage participation.

The Afterschool Reading Club engages outside partners, including NYC Children's Theater and Studio in a School, whose teaching artists are leading literacy-linked arts programming across Afterschool Reading Club sites. The New York Public Library, Brooklyn Public Library, and Queens Library are collaborating with Afterschool Reading Club teachers and shelter staff to provide students with fine-free library cards and inform students and families about library services and activities.

"For 20 years, New York City Children's Theater has been dedicated to reaching all children in NYC with innovative theater programs that enhance their social, emotional, and educational gains," said Brooke Boertzel, Director of Education for the New York City Children's Theater . "We work in over 70 public schools each year, serving approximately 15,000 students. We are honored to be chosen as a partner in this important program."

"SCO Family of Services seeks to achieve life changing results for all of the New Yorkers we serve. Our homeless shelters provide a service-rich environment to help families and individuals restore and rebuild their lives. Literacy development is critical to children's academic success and we welcome this DOE and DHS collaboration to enhance the literacy skills of children during their stay with us," said Douglas O'Dell, Executive Director of SCO Family of Services, which operates the Flushing Family Residence.

"The Afterschool Reading Club is welcome news for elementary school students living in temporary housing," said NYC Council Education Committee Chairperson Daniel Dromm . "It is crucial that we provide our city's most vulnerable children with sound early literary instruction. This important pilot demonstrates New York City's commitment to equipping all students with the knowledge they need to achieve academic excellence and promising career opportunities. I am pleased to support this exciting project."

"There are far reaching educational consequences when children are being raised in a shelter system that often falls short of providing the nurturing and encouraging environment they need to succeed. In my own district, Bronx Community School District 9, we have the highest rate of homelessness in the entire City with fully 18% of the student body experiencing homelessness during the 2013-14 school year and it's had a significant impact on academic performance. I applaud the efforts of the city to make sure that every student, regardless of their back ground, has every chance to succeed in school through effectively integrating the programs and resources of the New York City Department of Education and Department of Social Services to develop homeless-specific educational interventions. Genuine initiatives like- Afterschool Reading Club - are not only an essential part of effectively responding to the City's ongoing housing crisis, but reflects commitment to curtailing the crisis level chronic absenteeism of Bronx school children living in homeless shelters," said Assemblywoman Latoya Joyner (D-Bronx, 77th AD).

Afterschool Reading Club is part of a broader investment in supports for students in temporary housing. In FY17, the City has dedicated nearly $30 million to fund new programs, including $19.5 million of capital funding to build new school-based health centers at up to 13 campuses that house elementary schools with significant enrollment (1,000+ students) and have at least one school with more than 50 students in shelter on the campus, as well as $10.3 million to support a series of pilot programs for students living in shelter, including:

Technology and training to ensure DOE staff inside shelters can be in constant communication with families and schools to address attendance and other challenges in real time.

Enrollment workshops to be conducted directly in shelter to support families approaching the middle and high school application processes.

Attendance teachers to work directly in the DHS shelters with the most significant attendance challenges.

Additional health care and mental health care services in schools with large populations of students in shelter.

The DOE also launched a program to offer yellow bus service for students in grades K-6 who reside in the DHS shelter system - creating more than 360 new bus routes serving shelters and commercial hotels throughout the five boroughs, providing service to more than 750 schools.

The DOE continues to make progress in implementing new initiatives to support the academic, social and emotional needs of students living in temporary housing (STH) - which includes students who are doubled up due to economic hardship, living in shelter, awaiting foster care placement, living in hotels, or experiencing other forms of homelessness - and working across City agencies, including closely collaborating with DHS.

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