November 03, 2022

More than 100,000 books handed out across New York state

Author: Ben Amey
Source:  NYSUT Communications
first book rochester
Caption: This student is holding just one of the 20,000 books distributed in Rochester. Photo by Cleveland Willis.

Few things are more important than instilling children with a love of reading from an early age.

Throughout the past few months, NYSUT has worked hand in hand with the American Federation of Teachers and its Reading Opens the World initiative to run several events across the state to get books into the hands of students.

These events have taken place in communities statewide, from Long Island to Rochester, with thousands of books given away at each event. The AFT has a goal of giving away more than one million books at Reading Opens the World events nationwide. To date, more than 900,000 books have been distributed.

“Combined with great schools, combined with books and parents who care, we can put [children] on a path so they can get those jobs we’re creating here in upstate New York,” said Governor Kathy Hochul at a Reading Opens the World event in Rochester where more than 20,000 books were distributed.

These events have not only been about the joy of reading, but also about bringing communities together. At the Rochester event, the Ibero-American Action League, which is a dual-language multi-service agency that advocates for Latinos and the underserved, helped sponsor the event alongside the Rochester Teachers Association, Rochester Association of Paraprofessionals, NYSUT, AFT and other community organizations. In Long Island, the Eastport-South Manor Teachers’ Association worked with the Manorville Fire Department to hand out more than 5,000 books.

“We cannot overstate the importance of turning children into readers from an early age,” said Albany Public School Teachers Association President Laura Franz, whose local distributed 20,000 books at an October community celebration. “A love of reading helps foster a love of learning, and there is really nothing better than helping a child develop that love.”

Events also included family activities, such as bounce houses, face painting, food, games and more.

Local unions have also used these events to supplement what is going on in classrooms. “Prior to the pandemic, because of the lack of funding, we didn’t even have libraries in our elementary schools,” said Samantha Rosado-Ciriello, president of the Yonkers Federation of Teachers. The YFT and AFT handed out 40,000 books at their event in September. “Because of the advocacy efforts of our national, state and local labor organizations, we were able to get the American Rescue Plan funding and Foundation Aid funding phased in so that we could reopen libraries in our elementary schools. And now that they are reopened, it was important for us to be able to stock those libraries, stock those classrooms, and make sure our kids have books in their hands to take home.”

“What our kids in communities need is an understanding that books are sacred,” said teacher Gavin Curtis, a YFT member. “That we shouldn’t be banning them, we shouldn’t be burning them, we should be giving them the chance to choose for themselves and discover for themselves.”

Other big events were held in White Plains and Syracuse.

For more information on the Reading Opens the World initiative, please click here.