March 20, 2020

A letter from our Executive Director

How Read Ahead is responding to COVID-19

To our Read Ahead Community:

I hope this message finds you well, and that you are staying safe and doing what you can to adjust to the challenges of the current crisis. 

The impact of the coronavirus pandemic is global, but acutely felt here in New York City. All of us—including far too many families who were already struggling—are now navigating school closures and wide-spread job loss and uncertainty. Many public school families lack sufficient access to technology and internet connectivity, making the new realities of remote learning that much more challenging. Our teachers and schools are taking herculean steps to continue to support families and educate children, even as they navigate many of these challenges themselves. Please know that we at Read Ahead are thinking of you, and the health and well-being of our entire community.

For nearly 30 years, Read Ahead has brought caring volunteers together with children in public elementary schools for lunchtime reading and mentoring.  I wanted to reach out to share some of the ways our team is adapting to this rapidly changing situation. Through all of this, our commitment to our Read Ahead community, and mission to support public school students, is unwavering.

  • All of our organizational decision-making is guided by our core values, and the goal of ensuring that Read Ahead is able to continue to serve our students and school communities through this crisis and beyond. 
  • We will continue to put students first by reaching out to our school partners and mentee families to understand their current needs, and finding ways to provide resources and support wherever we can. We will think creatively and pursue innovative solutions to adapt to changing circumstances.
  • Our work is built on trusted and committed relationships, and we will prioritize communication and virtual community-building so that we can continue to gain strength from one another.
  • Joy, fun, and laughter are essential to Read Ahead, so we will continue to share stories from our mentors, mentees, and partners that provide some brightness during this difficult time.
  • Staff retention is a priority, and we are offering flexible work hours, paid sick leave, and other accommodations to support our staff during this difficult time. The health and well-being of our staff is paramount to our ability to continue to serve our students and schools.

I, along with the entire Read Ahead team, will continue to reach out to you in the coming weeks as we gain a better understanding of the pressing needs in our community, and how we are able to help. In the meantime we would love to hear from you! If there are specific ways we can be supporting you right now, or if you have ideas or access to resources that you think may be of use to our school communities, please email me at

While books and reading have always been central to Read Ahead, what really drives us is the connection between mentors and mentees. We have many challenges ahead of us, but I am confident that we will rise to meet them together.

Thank you for being a part of our community, and please stay safe.

All my best,

Kristen Baldwin

Executive Director