City’s First Readers, a New York City Council initiative coordinated by Literacy Inc., is a collaboration of nonprofits and libraries united to develop and deliver effective early childhood literacy programs. We empower parents, teachers, caregivers and community institutions with the necessary tools to ensure that all children, regardless of their social and economic backgrounds, have a solid foundation to start school successfully, thrive academically, and have the opportunity to succeed beyond their school years.
Literacy starts at birth. City’s First Readers is guided by the best practices which demonstrate that fostering early literacy development is vital to the long-term wellbeing of children.
Decades of neuroscience research demonstrates the need to focus on children’s early years to boost lifelong educational achievement. Adolescent and adult brain architecture is heavily influenced by experiences during the period from birth to five years. In low-income communities, by the time children enter kindergarten, they are on average 12-24 months below national norms in language and pre-reading skills. Vocabulary use at 3 years is predictive of language skills at age 9 and 10 and is associated with reading. Investing in high quality early childhood education is an investment in our future.
In New York City, we face a literacy crisis with negative fiscal, social and health implications. According to 2017 English Language Arts standardized test scores, 65.3% of New York City’s third grade students living in poverty read below grade level. Once these students fall behind, it becomes increasingly difficult for them to catch up. According to the National Research Council, third grade reading proficiency is a leading indicator for high school graduation.
One in six children who don’t read proficiently in third grade do not graduate from high school on time. These children will have far fewer opportunities to experience economic sufficiency, and will have greater health and social needs. Public investment in early literacy development does not merely increase educational achievement, it also strengthens economic growth rates and standard of living, thus ensuring the future vitality of our city.