By Bill Parry
The city Department of Homeless Services got some good news last week when its Library Pilot Project was recognized by the Library of Congress as one of 14 honorees from around the world implementing best practices in literacy promotion. Launched in March 2015, the collaboration between DHS, Queens Library and the city’s Department of Education, among others, works to bring literacy services and programs to children and their families in 30 newly created shelter-based libraries.
“We know that serving homeless New Yorkers is about more than ensuring families have a roof over their heads,” said Department of Social Services Commissioner Steven Banks, who oversees DHS. “The Library Pilot Project is a continuation of our commitment to connect homeless families to the support they need to increase access to education and to thrive.”
In addition to increasing access to reading material, the project’s shelter programming includes homework assistance for students, parent-child reading activities, and one-on-one reading enrichment sessions for children. It offers a college preparatory program for high school seniors in shelters to increase applications and enrollment. Skill-building games and arts-and-crafts sessions provide a forum for children to express their feelings on a wide range of subjects. The Library Pilot Project also offers library card drives, group visits to local public library branches, and book discussion groups for families.
“The Library Pilot Project brings families that live in shelter much more than age-appropriate books,” Schools Chancellor Carmen Farina said. “Developing a love of reading from the earliest age is essential, and having access to books is a necessary first step. We continue to work in close partnership with the Department of Homeless Services to expand initiatives and implement new programs to support students and families who are living in shelter.”
The annual Library of Congress Literacy Awards recognize groups doing exemplary and innovative work, and they spotlight the need for the global community to unite instriving for universal literacy. The 13 other projects that will be honored alongside DHS include the Afghanistan Center at Kabul University, Ethiopia Reads in Addis Ababa and Sipar in Phnom Penh, Cambodia.
“Queens Library is thrilled to be a part of this innovative project that supports literacy and the love of reading with children and parents experiencing homelessness,” Queens Library Director of Youth Programs and Services Vikki Terrile said. “We look forward to continuing and expanding our work with the Department of Homeless Services, our other project partners, and the families and staff in or Queens shelters.”
Reach reporter Bill Parry by e-mail at bparr