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NYC Homeless Services hononered by Library of Congress for Shelter Literacy Programs



October 28, 2016

Contact: Lauren Gray (, 917-790-3890)



Programs include parent-child reading programs, homework assistance, and support for high school seniors applying for college

NEW YORK—Yesterday, the NYC Department of Homeless Services’ Library Pilot Project was recognized by the Library of Congress as 1 of 14 honorees from around the world implementing best practices in literacy promotion. Launched in March 2015, this project is a collaboration between the Department of Homeless Services, the NYC Department of Education, NYC Service, Scholastic Inc., and the New York, Brooklyn, and Queens Public Libraries. The Library Pilot Project works to bring literacy services and programs to children and their families in 30 newly created shelter-based libraries.

In addition to increasing access to reading material, the Library Pilot Project's shelter programming includes homework assistance for students, parent-child reading activities, and one-on-one reading enrichment sessions for children. It brings 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.

"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 the Department of Homeless Services. "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."

"The Library Pilot Project brings families that live in shelter much more than age appropriate books — it also provides homework assistance, reading activities and a college preparatory program for high school seniors," said Schools Chancellor Carmen Fariña. "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."

To create libraries in shelters across the city, Scholastic Inc. donated more than 3,000 books and New York Public Libraries lends additional ongoing operational support and resources.

"The Department of Homeless Services has been a leader in literacy by gathering partners to implement an innovative and effective plan to increase access to books for children in homeless shelters who need quality, engaging books beyond the school day not only to build their literacy skills but also to develop a love of reading," shared Karine Apollon, VP & General Manager, Scholastic Education. "At Scholastic, we have a firm belief that literacy — the ability to read, write and understand — is the birthright of every child, and we are honored to have served as a partner in this important initiative. We join the Library of Congress in celebrating this great achievement."

"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," said Vikki Terrile, Director of Children and Youth Programs and Services at Queens Library. "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 our Queens shelters."

The 13 other projects that were honored alongside the Department of Homeless Services' Library Pilot Project by the Library of Congress for best practices in literacy promotion include:

  • Afghanistan Center at Kabul University, Kabul
  • Cell-Ed, Los Angeles
  • Chicago Literary Alliance, Chicago
  • Collaborative Summer Library Program, U.S.
  • Ethiopia Reads, Addis Ababa, Ethiopia
  • GIZPCP, Kabul
  • Library For All, New York
  • National Center on Adult Literacy — International Literacy Institute, Philadelphia
  • National Centre on Literacy & Numeracy for Adults, Hamilton and Waikato, New Zealand
  • Rumie Initiative, Toronto
  • Sipar, Phnom Penh, Cambodia
  • Students and Parents in Cooperative Education, Thorndike, Maine
  • Ze Peao School Programme, João Pessoa, Brazil

"NYC Service is so proud to partner with the Department of Homeless Services on the Library Pilot Project to bring more reading materials and literacy programs ‎to children and families in our City," said NYC Chief Service Officer Paula Gavin. "We look forward to continuing our partnership and congratulate the Department of Homeless Services on this great honor."

Since 2013, the Library of Congress Literacy Awards have honored organizations working to promote literacy and reading both in the United States and internationally. The annual awards recognize groups doing exemplary, innovative, and replicable work, and they spotlight the need for the global community to unite in striving for universal literacy. DHS was recognized at the 2016 Library of Congress Literacy Awards ceremony in Washington, DC and received a $2,500 prize.