By Jeff Mays
HARLEM — School's out for summer but the kids of the New York City Housing Authority still have a lot of reading to do.
Disney has partnered with Scholastic and NYCHA to donate 10,000 new books as part of the NYC Literacy Enterprise and NYCHA Reads partnership. The goal is simple: to teach kids that reading and writing can have a positive effect on their future.
"Reading is the key to everything good that you want for yourself in your future," said Susan Taylor, the former editor-in-chief of Essence Magazine and president and founder of the National CARES Mentoring Movement told more than 300 kids gathered at King Towers on West 115th Street.
NYCHA chairman John Rhea said the program is designed to not only teach kids about the the importance of reading, writing and comprehension skills, but to also engage parents and even help older kids serve as role models for their younger siblings. The program will be implemented at NYCHA community centers throughout the city.
Rhea advised the kids to make "words and sentences your friends."
"It's really about you each increasing your vocabulary and appreciation for the written word," he said.
Harlem City Councilwoman Inez Dickens had a similar message.
"If you can't read well you can't do anything in life," she said. "To be successful in life, a great mother, a great doctor, lawyer or chair of NYCHA, you have to read," she said.
Devon Meyers, 30, said the importance of reading is a lesson he wanted his daughter Iyanla, 10, to hear. She'll be attending summer school in a few weeks and reading books from the library.
"She's not going to get to go to any of the summer programs but she's learning that reading comes first," said Meyers, a consultant at a community center. "I've been explaining to her the importance of reading and this event has helped."
The event featured book giveaways, face painting hot dogs and cake. Pamela Clark, 56, a caregiver for Shakira, 4, said the young girl loves reading.
"I like the three little pigs because the house falls down," said Shakira.
But for 12-year-old Tachinai McGrier, who wants to become a doctor, the highlight was getting to meet Taylor.
"She told me that I should always read and follow my dreams," said McGrier who is heading to the 7th grade at P.S./M.S. 108.
Taylor, who grew up in Harlem not far from King Towers, said she plans to mentor McGrier and that reading will be a big part of their relationship.
"Reading is the gateway skill to open all the doors and pull all the levers needed for self-sufficiency, joy and success," Taylor said.