Nonprofit partners with school to improve literacy of Harlem's children

STEPHON JOHNSON Amsterdam News Staff | 1/24/2013, 2:04 p.m.

A nonprofit devoted to improving the literacy of Harlem's children has expanded its programs to a local elementary school. Last week, the Reading Team announced that it had opened a new school-day program for children in Harlem who are "at high risk of reading failure." In a partnership with the New York City Board of Education, the campus of P.S. 36 at Amsterdam Avenue and West 122nd Street would mark the first time the nonprofit has replicated its early literacy programs outside of its Central Harlem location. Reading Team President Maureen Rover spoke on the reasons for the expansion.

"We opened this second site in response to the virtually unlimited demand for our literacy support services in Harlem," said Rover in a statement. "We have expanded our preschool program and after-school program enrollments to near capacity at our main site in Teresa Towers on Adam Clayton Powell Jr. Boulevard."

As the AmNews reported last year, the Reading Team sets their schedule to align with the school year (late summer/early fall to late spring/early summer) in order to engage children in several different ways to not only improve literacy, but to help them excel as well. According to the nonprofit, through literary focus, early intervention, small group gatherings and computer-based learning, the children are able to improve their reading skills through one-on-one-style learning they wouldn't get in the classroom or at home. They work with kindergarten through fifth grade.

The school-day program at P.S. 36 will initially serve 300 4- to 7-year-old children in preschool through first grade. About 40 kindergartners and first-graders who take part in this program also attend the Reading Team's after-school program on the school's campus because of the learning difficulties they confront in the classroom. The Reading Teams expects the after-school program to grow by about 15 to 20 children per year as the program expands upwards one grade per year until the fall of 2016, when it will serve 100 to 125 children in kindergarten through fifth grade.

"The incidence of reading failure in this community is unacceptable," said Rover. "On average, only 30 percent of third- through eighth-graders pass the New York state English Language Arts Exam each year. Yet 100 percent of Reading Team children pass--consistently and with distinction. Our programs work and we expect to reproduce our success at P.S. 36. We anticipate that P.S. 36 children in our programs will gain at least 60 percentiles in reading ability and will finish this first school year above the 80th percentile in reading ability."