Publishers looking for a way to support reading in New York City schools might want to take a look at Learning Leaders, a 47-year-old nonprofit program that recruits, trains and places volunteers into the New York City school system.
Digna Sánchez, recently named president of Learning Leaders, told PW that the program has an annual budget of $3.5 million and offers support and mentoring to more than 160,000 students in elementary, middle and high school. It offers the public schools a corps of more than 11,000 volunteers who attend three to four training sessions to assist students with reading and a wide variety of academic projects. The organization offers programs like Authors Read Aloud, which brings children's book authors and illustrators into elementary schools to read from their books and to discuss the publishing process with children.
Launched about 10 years ago, the Authors Read Aloud Program invites the authors and illustrators to make four visits to one class and develop a relationship with the students. The program has brought more than 33 authors into nine elementary public schools. "We have a cadre of authors who volunteer to work in the schools. These authors and illustrators bring excitement to the classroom. We get our authors mostly by word of mouth," Sánchez said.
Sánchez said that 85% of Learning Leaders' budget is raised from foundations and corporations, and she added that the ARA program could always use a little help. The program has a long history of support from Scholastic, which has donated more than 20,000 books to the program over the years. Recently, Deborah Gregory, creator of the Cheetah Girls book series (now a Disney film) at Hyperion, was an Authors Read Aloud volunteer. Disney and Time Warner Cable have also teamed up to donate $10,000 to support Authors Read Aloud.
"We would love to expand the program, and publishers could play a big role," Sánchez said. For more information, visit www.learningleaders.org or call (212) 213-3370.