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PR- 358-11
October 11, 2011


Sony Donates More Than 1,500 Reader Digital Devices to Assist with City’s Literacy Effort

Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg, Deputy Mayor Linda I. Gibbs and Department of Youth and Community Development Commissioner Jeanne B. Mullgrav today announced the expansion of the Young Adult Literacy Program. The program, which aims to improve literacy for disconnected youth who read between the fourth and eighth grade level, will receive $3 million over the next three years through the City's Young Men's Initiative. This is the first component of the Young Men's Initiative to be funded and launched. The Young Adult Literacy Program is now fully operational at 17 sites across all five boroughs and will serve nearly 1,000 participants this year. The Mayor also thanked Sony for the donation of more than 1,500 Readers to City literacy programs to assist and enhance educational opportunities for participants. The Mayor was joined at the Bronx Public Library Center by Congressman Jose E. Serrano; Senator Gustavo Rivera; Assembly Member Jose Rivera; Joe Novelli, Vice President of Sony's Digital Reader Business Division; Dr. Anthony Marx, President of the New York Public Library; and Luis Chavez, a recent graduate of the Young Adult Literacy Program. 

"The importance of education - of knowing how to read - cannot be overstated." said Mayor Bloomberg. "We launched the Young Men's Initiative to help more young men fulfill their potential. The Young Adult Literacy Program reaches out to our most disconnected young men and our most vulnerable populations and gets them back on the track to a high school diploma, a job and the hope of a better tomorrow. I'm especially excited by the donation of e-readers from Sony and the partnership with our public libraries which will give these young men the gift of enjoying free library books at the click of the button."

"The Young Adult Literacy Program is the first in our roll-out of Young Men's Initiative programs aimed at reducing the disparities crippling the advancement of black and Latino young men," said Deputy Mayor Gibbs. "Bridging the gap in literacy and education is a crucial component in leveling the playing field and increasing the likelihood of positive outcomes for the young men of our city."

"This program strengthens the safety net of services for a young person who has left high school without a diploma and may not be ready to take the GED exam," said Commissioner Mullgrav. "Creating the Young Adult Literacy Program allowed us to help our youth bridge that gap by providing a path to the services they need, so they can pass the exam and pursue either a higher education or a lasting and meaningful career. I want to thank the Mayor for his dedication to our young people and Sony for their efforts to build a more literate world."

"Sony is dedicated to promoting literacy and has worked with public libraries across the country to expand their digital reading programs through the Reader Library Program," said Joe Novelli, Vice President of Sony's Digital Reading Business Division. "We are honored to be able to support the important efforts of the Young Adult Literacy Program efforts with the donation of over 1,500 of our Sony Reader™ devices and easy access to free library books."

"The New York Public Library has worked with the city to offer literacy programs that have given hundreds of young men and women a second chance to succeed," said NYPL President Dr. Anthony W. Marx. "We provide technology, staff and a safe environment so those New Yorkers who need us most can overcome their hardships, learn to read and open a whole new universe of opportunity. We are so proud to be part of this noble effort, and thankful to the City's Young Men's Initiative and SONY for helping to expand the services across the five boroughs. They are critically important to the success of our city."

"I applaud the work this great program is doing across our City to improve literacy rates among disconnected youth," said Congressman Serrano. "Sony's contribution is most welcome and their support is appreciated. Only through programs like these will we truly attack the persistent problem of illiteracy and its damaging consequences."

"The importance of working to promote literacy among young adults in New York City and the Bronx cannot be exaggerated," said State Senator Rivera. "Literacy and knowledge of English are necessary skills in order to have a successful educational and professional life, which is why I am proud to support the expansion of the Youth Adult Literacy Program as the first step to realizing the goals set forth by the city's Young Men's Initiative."

"Our community's education has been ignored for far too long and it has caused our young men to face large disparities in the area of literacy," said Assembly Member Rivera. "I have faith that Mayor Bloomberg's new Young Men's Initiative will finally be the solution to this ongoing crisis."

"This program has demonstrated strong results, and we are expanding the initiative by adding five new sites," said CEO Executive Director Veronica M. White. "CEO's mission is to help New Yorkers advance their careers through innovative and promising programs, and young adults are a key focus of this work. Addressing a gap in services for young adults at the Pre-GED level, the Young Adult Leadership Program builds on our effective strategy of pairing education with social support and paid internships to help young people advance."

"My story is not that different than many others," said Luis Chavez, a recent graduate of the Young Adult Literacy Program. "I dropped out of high school at sixteen and it was not a good choice to say the least. After two long years I finally took my first step toward a successful future by beginning the GED program at the Northern Manhattan Improvement Corporation - a program that is a part of the Department of Youth and Community Development's Young Adult Literacy Program.  I enjoyed every minute I was in the program because they showed me that there is a future for every young mind that has the perseverance and confidence for success."

The Young Adult Literacy Program, a collaboration between the Mayor's Center for Economic Opportunity (CEO), Department of Youth and Community Development and the Public Libraries, began in 2008 as a way to improve a student's skills in reading and math in preparation for the General Education Development (GED) exam.  Disconnected youth between the ages of 16-24 years old who are reading between the fourth and eighth grade equivalent levels receive pre-GED basic skills instruction tailored to the needs and interests of young adults and complemented by comprehensive support services. A paid internship component is integrated into the program for students who maintain a minimum 80 percent average attendance rate.

Since the program began, it has consistently exceeded its target outcomes for numbers served and numbers achieving literacy gains which led to its being selected as a scaled-up program through the Young Men's Initiative.  The Young Adult Literacy Program has thus far served over 2,000 young adults and helped 852 of them achieve a gain of more than one grade level in reading scores.  In 2011, 678 people were served (141 percent of target) and there were 302 literacy gains of more than one full grade level and 262 gains in math scores.  Additionally, 431 students participated in paid internships and 285 were connected to job training or employment. A CEO evaluation found that on average over an 8 week cycle students increased their reading scores by half a grade level and adding paid internships to the program led to higher attendance and retention, and significant increases in math scores over a control group.

The new investment of Young Men's Initiative funding will bring the overall budget for this fiscal year to $3 million and allow the City to expand the program to 17 sites.  Eight of the programs will be run by community based organizations (CBOs), while the remaining nine will be housed at public library branches, including the Bronx Library Center.  

The literacy program's CBO partners include: Highbridge Community Life Center; The Fortune Society, Inc.; BronxWorks, Inc.; Union Settlement Association; Lutheran Medical Center; CAMBA, Inc.; New York Center for Inter-personal Development (NYCID); and the Northern Manhattan Improvement Corporation (NMIC).  

Local library partners in addition to the Bronx Library Center include; the Mott Haven and West Farms branches of the New York Public Library; Long Island City, Jamaica, South Jamaica and Far Rockaway branches of the Queens Public Library; and the New Lots and Macon branches of the Brooklyn Public Library. 

The Young Men's Initiative
The Young Men's Initiative, the nation's boldest and most comprehensive effort to tackle the broad disparities slowing the advancement of black and Latino young men, was announced in August. Through broad policy changes and agency reforms over the next three years, a public-private partnership will invest more than $127 million in programs, such as the Young Adult Literacy Program, that will connect young men to educational, employment, and mentoring opportunities across more than a dozen city agencies. 

The Center for Economic Opportunity
The Center for Economic Opportunity (CEO) was established by Mayor Bloomberg in 2006 to implement innovative ways to reduce poverty in New York City. Supported by a combination of public and private funds, CEO works with City agencies to design and implement evidence-based initiatives aimed at poverty reduction. CEO is overseeing the implementation and evaluation of all programs within the Young Men's Initiative.

Department of Youth and Community Development
Department of Youth and Community Development supports New York City's afterschool and youth workforce development programs throughout the five boroughs. The agency also oversees funding for anti-poverty programs, such as adult literacy and immigrant services.

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Stu Loeser / Samantha Levine   (212) 788-2958

Andrew Doba   (Youth & Community Development)
(212) 442-5979


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