July - Aug Issue
July 02, 2014

100,000 books for summer reading

Author: By Sylvia Saunders
Source: NYSUT United
NYSUT Vice President Catalina Fortino and Olean TA President David Lasky with a collection of books.
Caption: NYSUT Vice President Catalina Fortino and Olean TA President David Lasky with a collection of books. Photo by El-Wise Noisette.

Unionists, educators, parents and community activists are providing something missing for too many students: books to read at home over the summer.

In a major effort to curb summer learning loss and improve English language arts skills, Rochester students received 100,000 books for home libraries, thanks to a collaborative effort by the Rochester Teachers Association, Rochester Association of Paraprofessionals (RAP), Rochester City School District, American Federation of Teachers and First Book.

The AFT-First Book partnership has distributed about 1.5 million books to children in need since 2011. Rochester's effort is the program's largest single book distribution by a school district.

"This effort is an unprecedented attempt to make sure all students in Rochester have equal access to books and equal opportunities to become lifelong readers," said AFT President Randi Weingarten. "Rochester's commitment to reading is showing how to reclaim the promise of public education."

Adam Urbanski, president of the Rochester TA, and Margie Brumfield, president of RAP, said the new books can spark a love of reading.

"Literacy, and especially independent reading, is the basis for success in school and in life," Urbanski said. "The very visibility of books at home makes a huge difference."

"Tomorrow belongs to those who prepare for it today," Brumfield said.

The reading push is intended to boost Rochester's English language arts scores, the lowest among New York's large urban school districts. The district purchased the 100,000 books, many in Spanish, from First Book for $270,000. They have a retail value of $675,000.

Students in kindergarten through second grade each received a book bag filled with 10 books. Students in grades 3-11 each took home two books and a summer reading assignment. The AFT's Share My Lesson site — www.sharemylesson.com/rochester — includes corresponding lesson plans as well as other activities.

"By working to encourage every child to read at least 30 minutes every day, our community can become a national leader for improving literacy and supporting year-round achievement," Rochester Superintendent Bolgen Vargas said.

The Saratoga Adirondack BOCES Employees Association and NYSUT locals in Olean, Buffalo, Freeport, Schenectady, New York City, Central Islip and Albany also are participating.