June 4, 2020

Update from our Executive Director: Turning the page, and looking ahead

To our Read Ahead Community:

I hope this message finds you healthy and safe. 

When I last wrote to you in March, our city was just beginning to adjust to the new realities of stay-at-home orders. Read Ahead has been hard at work since that time, and I’m eager to share all of the positive updates from our team below. At the same time, I also need to acknowledge the ongoing pain felt by so many in our community—especially Black people and other people of color who have been hurt by systemic racism and violence, and the Asian community, which has been the target of racist attacks in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic. 

As an organization dedicated to helping New York City public school children reach their full potential, Read Ahead has a responsibility to stay vocal and active in the fight against institutional racism. I will have more to share with you in the coming weeks and months about how we are embracing our core value of growth and working to continuously improve in these areas. In the meantime, I encourage you to check out the anti-racism resources on our website, and reach out to me directly with any questions or if you would like to have a conversation. 

Read Ahead’s COVID-19 response

Over the past two months, I have spent countless hours speaking with members of this community, and I’m grateful to those of you who have taken the time to share your advice and perspective. Public school students, families, and schools have faced extraordinary challenges, ones that have existed for far too long, and were made worse by COVID-19. From difficulties accessing online learning, to widespread job loss and food insecurity, to the stress and trauma of losing friends and loved ones—no family should have to face these challenges. I am in awe of their resilience and inspired by the determination of our educators, and the generosity of our volunteers and supporters.

Since school buildings closed their doors in March, the Read Ahead community has come together to work tirelessly in support of students and schools. Together, we have:

  • Created our first-ever e-mentoring program to keep mentors and mentees connected through the end of the school year. So far, over 1,000 heartfelt, silly, thoughtful, informative, and inspiring messages have been shared.
  • Connected over 150 families to food, supplies, and technology in the weeks immediately following school building closures.
  • Supported partner schools with books, school supplies for families, and personalized notes of gratitude for school staff.
  • …and so much more! We’re continuing to mobilize our volunteers and supporters to participate in virtual book drives, create fun and engaging read alouds and other videos for schools, and more.

Looking ahead to the 2020-21 school year

The end of this school year is just a few short weeks away, and there is still a lot of uncertainty around what the school day may look like in the fall: instruction may take place in person, via remote learning, or a combination of the two. But as I think about the upcoming school year, I am certain of this: Read Ahead needs to be there for our kids.

Ongoing conversations with our partners will continue to inform all of Read Ahead’s program planning. We have learned a lot from our e-mentoring experience this spring, and are currently exploring a new virtual program model. Although we will always be looking ahead to a time when we can be together again in person, I am excited by the prospect of connecting mentor-mentee pairs via video, and leveraging new technology platforms to strengthen our students’ reading skills. I look forward to sharing more as we finalize our plans.

After months of remote learning—combined with the citywide shutdown that confines most children to their apartments and limits their contact with peers and the wider school community—our students are at significant risk of learning loss, social isolation, and other detrimental effects of the pandemic. A shared reading experience, and one-on-one support from a caring mentor, have never been more important.

Thank you

I am so proud of the work our staff has done to find new and creative ways to support students and schools through this unprecedented time. And I am deeply grateful to our strong, generous community of partners, supporters, and families. Without you, Read Ahead wouldn’t be possible.

All my best,

Kristen Baldwin
Executive Director

Do you have a question, comment, or an idea for something you’d like to see on our blog? We’d love to hear from you! Contact us at communications@readahead.org