Assemblywoman Latrice Walker worked the group of energetic children gathered Thursday in the Brownsville Branch of the Brooklyn Public Library like a master teacher.
“Every time you hear a name, I want you to clap twice,” Walker told the students ranging from kindergartners to second graders as she read the book “Stevie,” by John Steptoe.
“I’m the mom of a six-year old and your mother’s your first teacher,” Walker said afterwards, explaining why she was such a natural. Walker was one of several elected officials to read to students during “Brownsville Reads,” a program sponsored by Uncommon Schools, Reading Partners, and the Brooklyn Public Library to get children and families excited about summer reading. A second reading program is planned for May 24 at the Bedford Stuyvesant branch.
“We feel it’s extremely important to make sure all children in the community have access to books and that they are reading over the summer break,” said Tara Marlovits, chief operating officer of Uncommon Schools NYC, a public charter network with 23 schools in Brooklyn that serves 8,100 predominantly low-income students. “This event is just one of the ways we can make reading fun and enjoyable for families.”
Many students experience the “summer slide,” the well-documented phenomenon in which students, lose some of the academic gains they made during the school year.
“The Brownsville Reads event is aligned with Reading Partner’s mission to promote strong reading skills,” said Claudia von Nostitz, the FAO Schwarz Family Foundation Fellow with Reading Partners, a non-profit organization that partners with under-resourced schools and engages volunteer reading partners to work one-on-one with students who struggle with reading.
“We understand how important it is to encourage children to read and prevent the summer slump,” von Nostitz said. “We are pleased to partner with Uncommon Schools again this year to host this event to ensure that children have books and are excited about summer reading.”
Now in its second year, the event drew more than 100 students and families to the library, where Walker was joined by Councilwoman Alicka Ampry-Samuel of the 41st District and Rhea Smith, director of Events/Diversity & Caribbean Affairs for Senator Jesse Hamilton.
“Brownsville Reads is a great opportunity to kick off summer reading for our youth and to promote the importance of reading during the extended summer break,” Walker said. “It’s my pleasure to partner with Uncommon Schools for this event, and I am excited that every child who attends will leave with books to have fun reading during the summer and all year long.”
Ampry-Samuel sat down on a colorful matt on the second-floor mezzanine of the library, where she read “The Tell-Tale Heart” by Edgar Allan Poe to a group of fifth and sixth graders.
“I am a strong advocate for literacy and libraries because they are essential building blocks for our young children, families, and communities,” Ampry-Samuel said. “I am very proud to be a partner of this event and to have the opportunity to read and explore books with children from our community.”
Hamilton said the Brownsville Reads program is important.
“It engages our youth and helps them become lifelong readers,” Hamilton said. “I am proud to join with colleagues, Uncommon Schools, and the Brooklyn Public Library in inspiring our young people to read. By kindling a love for reading, Brownsville Reads makes a profound difference in the lives of countless young people, their families, and our community.”
Each child who attended the event left with a bag full of books to ensure they have plenty to read over the summer! Every child was also entered into a raffle and had a chance to receive a gift geared towards literacy, such as an electronic reader, a magazine subscription, or a gift card to a bookstore.
“Brownsville Reads was a great community event and a great collaboration that we want to continue,” said Paul Levy, a librarian at the Brownsville Branch. “Summer reading is very important and we definitely want to prevent summer slide.”