By SARAH HUFFMAN
Nearly two out of three children affected by systemic poverty cannot read at grade level, according to Literacy Incorporated (LINC), a New York City nonprofit focused on early childhood literacy. The organization said children who cannot transition from “learning to read” to “reading to learn” by third grade are 13 times more likely not to graduate on time from high school.
Childhood literacy, along with resources for youth, schools and libraries formed the main topics of discussion at last month’s Bronx Community Board 7’s education committee meeting, held on Feb. 2, and the first of the year to be chaired by Leurys Acosta, the new committee chair.
During a presentation to the board, Gladys Gomez, a LINC representative, said, “Our mission is to engage families and community members to support our youngest readers, ages birth to five years old, and we are currently in eight neighborhoods across New York City ,” Gomez said, adding that LINC teams were based in each of the City’s five boroughs.
According to LINC, illiteracy impacts children’s ability to access better opportunities in health, education, and the economy. In the United States, the organization estimates that 43 percent of adults with the lowest levels of literacy live in poverty. They say low literacy rates also cost the American economy $25 billion a year in loss of productivity. LINC promotes investment in literacy as the path out of poverty, with representatives saying, “It is both the smart and the right thing to do!”
The group regularly hosts parent workshops on literacy and education so that parents can help their kids prepare for school. During the meeting, Gomez gave an overview of LINC’s main programs which include the “very involved parent” or VIP volunteer program, a book distribution program, a everywhere reading program, and the “lit zone,” program. The latter involves partnerships with local businesses where boxes full of free books are available for community members to take home for their children.
Gomez said LINC also accepts book donations for their lit zones at their Bronx locations. In Fordham, these are the Bronx Library Center (BLC) at 310 E Kingsbridge Road, Saint Barnabas Hospital WIC Offices at 260 East 188th Street, 2021 Grand Concourse, and 4507 3rd Avenue, Twin Park West at 365 Ford Street, and Niño de la Caridad Foundation at 578 E Fordham Road.
In Kingsbridge, they are United Pharmacy at 5539 Broadway, Marble Hill Senior Citizen Center at 5365 Broadway, and W TwoThirty Laundry Services at 215 West 230th Street. All LINC programs are free and as of mid-February were taking place virtually. For more information, residents are invited to visit lincnyc.org.
Later in the meeting, Pam Cora, managing librarian at the Bronx Library Center, the borough’s largest public library, located at 310 E Kingsbridge Road in Fordham Manor, provided updates on the library’s activities and resources. She said in-person programming was on hold but was due to return by mid-February.
Cora added that BLC was also hosting a small-scale exhibit called “Micro Museum of Care” for one month, which explores the future of care work through the voices of healthcare workers. She also highlighted the availability of New York Public Library’s STEAM [Science, technology, engineering, arts, and mathematics] kits for kids, which can be checked out for three weeks at a time with a library card.
Last September, as reported, NYPL announced a range of new programs for the fall season, including the STEAM program. Students have access to five different types of STEAM kits: engineering, stargazing, young coders, and young builders. Additionally, ten library branches offer Sphero robotics kits.
Used in conjunction with books from the library and resources from home, the kits, help students develop their skills in STEAM topics and support creative, scientific, and collaborative thinking. “There are different kinds of gadgets, gizmos, and technology that makes it really fun and exciting for children to learn about STEAM in a collaborative way with either siblings or their family while they’re at home,” Cora said.
BLC is also hosting tax preparation classes in partnership with Ariva on Fridays from Feb. 18 from 10 am to 5 pm by appointment only. To qualify for the program, the income limit for a single individual must be $32,000 per year and the income limit with dependents must be $56,000.
Meanwhile, Cora said the college and career pathways program (CCP) provides information to parents and students about the college application process. CB7 member, Chad Royer, asked about SAT preparation assistance, and Cora said SAT materials are also available in the library and CCP occasionally hosts preparation programming also.
Acosta asked if the library was still hosting story time for children, and Cora confirmed that the sessions were virtual but would be returning to an in-person format in the future, as would the after-school child assistance program. “This was very, very well attended before our pause on in-person programming, and we expect it to be just as well attended once we reinstate in person programming,” Cora said. As reported, an after-school program is also available at the Mosholu branch of New York Public Library (NYPL).
Isha Taylor, president of Community Education Council (CEC) District 10, later introduced herself and provided an overview of CEC’s background and resources. “This term, we decided that we wanted to empower students, inform families, and unite our individual school and local external communities,” she said.
Taylor said there are 36 CEC councils across New York City, with 32 district boards and four city-wide councils. District 10, in which Norwood is located, has 62 total schools with 55 kindergarten through 6th grade schools, two 6th grade through 12th grade schools, and five pre-kindergarten centers.
“Our priorities for this 2021-2023 term [are] to, again, empower students by ensuring that every student in District 10 receives high quality, cultural, responsive and sustainable education,” Taylor said. She said the council wants to make sure families are adequately informed and empowered, that they understand the curriculum and can make informed decisions that benefit their children and the surrounding community.
One meeting attendee named Leteisha brought up the issue of more families coming into the district when the district’s schools are already overcrowded. Taylor acknowledged that 38 out of 62 schools in District 10 are over 100 percent capacity. She said she was in the process of learning about plans to open some new schools in the district.
Ischia Bravo, Bronx CB7 district manager, agreed that the local schools were heavily saturated. “The goal of tonight was to kind of bridge the fact that we’re all doing the same thing, separately, and we need to make sure that we come together to advocate for the same things,” Bravo said about the issue.
Both Leteisha and Royer asked Taylor about resources for special education students. Taylor shared some resource links, adding she didn’t understand why special needs children had to travel to District 75 for their needs to be met. She said she plans to have a meeting with District 75’s council and the office of district planning to open up new seats in some District 10 schools for special education families.
Later in the meeting, Joy Knight, the second vice president and chair of scholarship for the Bronx alumnae chapter of Delta Sigma Theta, shared information about their 2022 scholarship application program. The scholarships are open to male and female Bronx high school seniors who have a B grade point average or better, who will be full-time students taking a four-year college course this coming fall.
Knight said an $8,000 scholarship was available, awarded in tranches of $1,000 per semester, as well as numerous one-time grants for students. She said the organization awarded over $29,500 in grants and scholarship prizes to students last year.
Naqi Cruz, a representative from the civilian complaints review board (CCRB), which, as reported, investigates allegations of misconduct by NYPD officers, later gave information about CCRB’s “Know Your Rights” workshops regarding police encounters, which he said were to keep everyone Safe and hold both parties accountable. “We’re out here, just trying to push that line of education,” he said.
Norwood News recently reported that the CCRB recommends discipline for 65 police officers accused of misconduct during the 2020 Black Lives Matter protests. We also reported that in February 2021, the CCRB approved new rules to investigate alleged NYPD sexual misconduct and false statements. In January 2021, as reported, the CCRB held a special meeting to discuss the agency’s disciplinary matrix.
Local Bedford Park resident, Sirio Guerino, whose child attends Bronx Collaborative High School, located on DeWitt Clinton Campus, said the school used to have a pool for students for gym and other activities, and don’t use it anymore. He said he wanted to look into why it was not usable, and see if that could be changed.
As part of the discussion, Hugo Gonzalez said Bronx High School of Science did not have a swimming pool on site but did have a deal with Lehman College to use their swimming pool and suggested this might also be an option for Bronx Collaborative High School.
Finally, Tasha Andrews gave a presentation about the local Buccaneers tackle football team which practices in the Williamsbridge Oval. She said the group takes any kids who want to play football from ages 6 to 14. The group meets on Saturdays at 11 am for two hours.
More details about NYPL’s after-school program can be found at:
More details about NYPL’s STEAM program can be found at:
*Síle Moloney contributed to this story.