Press Release

Rochester, N.Y., Students Receive 100,000 New Books In Largest Single Distribution by School District, AFT and First Book

For Release: 

Thursday, June 19, 2014


Janet Bass

ROCHESTER, N.Y.—In a major effort to boost reading, curb summer learning loss and improve English language arts skills, Rochester students received 100,000 books for home libraries this week, in a collaborative effort by the Rochester City School District, the American Federation of Teachers and its Rochester affiliates, and First Book.

This is the largest single book distribution by a school district, the AFT and First Book. The AFT-First Book partnership has distributed a total of about 1.6 million books to children in need since 2011.

"By encouraging every child to read at least 30 minutes every day, and providing the books to get started, our district is laser-focused on helping children read on grade level by third grade," Rochester Superintendent Bolgen Vargas said today at a book event at the Children's School of Rochester, No. 15. "This is part of a collaborative community effort to prevent summer learning loss and support year-round achievement by students at all grade levels."

The reading push is intended to boost Rochester's English language arts scores, the lowest among New York's large urban school districts. The district purchased the 100,000 books, many of which are in Spanish, from First Book for $270,000. They have a retail value of $675,000.

Students in kindergarten through second grade each received a book bag filled with 10 books. Students in grades 3-11 each took home two books and a summer reading assignment. To help parents guide children's reading, the AFT's Share My Lesson—— includes online lesson plans for many of the books distributed today as well as other activities to keep students engaged over the summer.

At the event, AFT President Randi Weingarten told the assembled children why she loved one of the books, "Afternoon on the Amazon," and said Rochester is not just talking the talk about the need to be a proficient reader.

"This effort is an unprecedented attempt to make sure that all students in Rochester have equal access to books and equal opportunities to become lifelong readers," Weingarten said. "Rochester's commitment to reading is spot on and is showing how to reclaim the promise of public education."

Kyle Zimmer, president and CEO of First Book, also applauded Rochester's reading emphasis. "Educators in Rochester are taking a stand on behalf of their students by going above and beyond to connect tens of thousands of children to an ongoing supply of new books," she said.

Two mothers attended the event with their second-grade children, encouraging their routine of reading as a family activity.

Adam Urbanski, president of the Rochester Teachers Association, and Margie Brumfield, president of the Rochester Association of Paraprofessionals, said the new books can spark a love of reading.

"Literacy, and especially independent reading, is the basis for success in school and in life," Urbanski said. "The very visibility of books at home makes a huge difference."

"Tomorrow belongs to those who prepare for it today," Brumfield said.

After the event, the educators and other community leaders joined the Children's School students in classrooms for reading circles.


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The AFT represents 1.7 million pre-K through 12th-grade teachers; paraprofessionals and other school-related personnel; higher education faculty and professional staff; federal, state and local government employees; nurses and healthcare workers; and early childhood educators.