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Mott Haven Hopes to Help Combat Literacy Problems with New Reading Center

By Eddie Small | August 8, 2014 6:35pm | Updated on August 11, 2014 8:55am
 Children in Mott Haven enjoy their new reading corner.
Children in Mott Haven enjoy their new reading corner.
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DNAinfo/Eddie Small

MOTT HAVEN — Children in Mott Haven just got another place to read.

The United Way of New York City and UnitedHealthcare joined together to open a new reading center on Friday at Mott Haven’s East Side House Settlement Early Childhood Program.

The reading space, located at 375 E. 143rd St., is part of the United Way's ReadNYC initiative, which aims to double the number of children who are reading at grade level by third grade in 10 New York City neighborhoods by 2020. Mott Haven is the first community where the United Way has launched this program.

Currently, just one-third of children in New York City read at grade level by third grade, a statistic that drops to just one in five for children of color who live in New York's poorest neighborhoods, according to ReadNYC.

Sheena Wright, president and CEO of the United Way of New York City, described investing in youth reading as equivalent to investing in the future of the city.

"When you look around out here today and you see the bright, smiling beautiful, faces, these are our children, and this is our future," she said. "If they don't get what they need, we're all in trouble."

The reading corner is Sesame Street-themed and features multiple "Let's Get Healthy" pop-up books from the television show. At the unveiling on Friday, children were treated to a reading of Eric Carle's classic "The Very Hungry Caterpillar."

John Sanchez, executive director of the non-profit social service organization East Side House Settlement, stressed the importance of promoting literacy due to the link between not reading proficiently in elementary school and not completing high school.

"If you don't finish high school, I think we all know then that your life chances are not so good," he said.

Marielys Divanne, senior director for ReadNYC, emphasized that promoting literacy did not always have to be a particularly time-consuming process.

"15 minutes (of reading) a day makes a huge difference," she said.