Fall 2020 | Mayor Baraka’s Book Club

Mayor Ras J. Baraka and Newark Chief Education Officer Antoinette Baskerville-Richardson announced today that the Mayor’s Book Club is combatting summer reading loss, despite the COVID-19 pandemic, by distributing more than 10,000 books to Newark residents. They range in topics and reading levels, from colorful books for preschoolers to age appropriate works for elementary and high school students as well as adult readers.

With schools closed for the spring and summer, libraries limited to curb service due to the pandemic, and virtual learning a reality for the fall, the Mayor’s Book Club developed an alternate plan for getting books into the hands of eager residents. The new books were donated to Rutgers University’s Office of University-Community Partnerships by First Book, a non-profit social enterprise that provides (among other essentials) new books to educators serving children in need. Dr. Diane Hill, Rutgers University-Newark Assistant Professor of Professional Practice and Assistant Chancellor for University-Community Partnerships offered the books to the Mayor’s Book Club. With the cooperation of the Newark Board of Education, where the books were stored, and the City’s Departments of Public Works and Recreation, more than 300 boxes of books were transported and prepared for distribution.

“Despite the challenge of COVID-19, we are working harder than ever to connect more and more city youth with great books that can educate, empower, and inspire them to achieve greatness in their own lives and the world at large,” said Mayor Baraka. “We have done so with the creativity, unity, and energy that defines Newark, and are bringing over 10,000 books to our families. A love of reading can foster a lifetime of success.”

Since mid-July, Mayor Baraka’s Office of Comprehensive Community Education has distributed books to city residents at Newark’s Summer Fun Movie Nights and Pop-up play events, with the help of teacher volunteers, and the Division of Recreation, Cultural Affairs and Senior Services staff. Also, books were delivered to 110 students attending Newark’s two in-person summer school sites, First Avenue School and Thirteenth Avenue School.‍

Ms. Richardson said, “There’s an abundance of interest when residents see us setting up the tables of beautiful hard cover books. Books are free and for all ages – from toddlers to adults. Wherever we go, Newark residents appreciate the books so much. Residents are used to going to the library, and since most learning is now remote, parents and grandparents are ecstatic to get books into the hands of their children. We keep it safe; we practice social distancing, we distribute masks, and the books that residents take home come from our stockpile of untouched books. Continuing the Mayor’s Book Club in a safe and thoughtful way during this time has been essential.”‍

The Mayor’s Book Club began in June 2019, with a sixth to eighth grade pilot and high school-adult segments in the fall and winter. The Mayor’s Book Club is a pillar of #NewarkReads, the literacy coalition that seeks to provide residents of all ages with approaches to with thoughtful challenging reading selections to improve literacy and encourage civic discourse.

The Mayor’s Book Club is supported by United Way of Greater Newark, Panasonic Foundation, Newark Public Library, Newark Board of Education, Audible, Victoria Foundation, the Newark Charter School Fund, Newark City of Learning Collaborative and others.

Spring 2019 | First Book

The Rutgers University-Office of University and Community Partnerships (OUCP)
in collaboration with the Newark Board of Education-Office of Early Childhood and Program for Parents recently distributed over 9,000 brand new children’s books to district schools, community-based preschool providers, charter schools, and social service agencies. The books were donated to Rutgers University through First Book. First Book is a nonprofit organization that endeavors to create equal access to quality education by making books and educational resources affordable to its network of more than 400,000 educators who exclusively serve children in need. Since 1992, First Book has distributed globally more than 175 million educational resources and books from various publishing houses. OUCP has been a First Book distribution partner since 2015.

The OUCP and RU-N students who participate in the America Reads/Count Program and Jumpstart distributed books to approximately 30 schools, community-based organizations, and childcare centers on June 6, 2019. The partnership wanted to ensure children have access to high-quality books during the summer months in order to prevent summer learning loss. Research shows that “income-based reading gaps grow over the summer, given that middle class students tend to show improvement in reading skills while lower-income students tend to experience loss.” (https://www.brookings.edu/research/summer-learning-loss-what-is-it-and-what-can-we-do-about-it/)

“Our First Book campaign occurs twice a year, usually in December and June. Our goal is to help students start their own private libraries at home,” shared RU-N Assistant Chancellor for University-Community Partnerships Diane Hill. “This year I’m happy to report that we gave more books to younger students (birth to 3rd grade) than in prior years.”
Rutgers is proud to announce the Fall distribution will be lead by Program for Parents. From the late 1990s through 2006 Programs for Parents was the first and only distributor of First Books in Essex County. Their goal then and still now is to introduce reading to the 16,000 parents and children who visit Program for Parents yearly. They also will provide books to child care centers, family child care providers and the community at large.