In New York City…

…home of the largest public school system in the country, less than 30% of children are reading proficiently at their grade level, and less than 30% are graduating from high school ready to go to college.

We are facing a crisis in New York City. A child’s ability to read at grade level by the end of the third grade is the biggest predictor of high school graduation and future success in college, career, and active citizenship, yet every year we fail to meet this critical milestone.

In NYC, 8 out of 10 low-income children can’t read at grade level, and in Mott Haven, Bronx, the poorest congressional district in the country, 9 in 10 children miss this critical milestone. These children are 74% more likely to drop out of high school and therefore more likely to remain in poverty. The negative repercussions of dropping out of high school and low educational attainment are numerous and bring with them significant economic and social costs:

  • Higher unemployment rates
  • Decreased earning potential
  • Twice the likelihood of living in poverty as compared with college graduates
  • Higher incarceration rates
  • Increased likelihood of teenage pregnancy

NYC also has some of the lowest high school graduation rates for black and Latino boys. Citywide, only 18.5% of black students and 23.3% of Latino students scored “proficient” on the state math exam in all grades tested.

While failure to graduate from high school has dire consequences for individuals, families, communities, and society as a whole, perhaps the greatest consequence of our education crisis can be found in losses to innovation, missed opportunity, and unrealized economic gains.

This is not okay.


The Solution: ReadNYC

By 2020, United Way of New York City (UWNYC) will work with local partners to double the number of children reading at grade level by third grade in neighborhoods of concentrated poverty in New York City.

“It is easier to build strong children than to repair broken men.”
-Frederick Douglass

Research shows that reading well by the end of third grade is a crucial “pinch point” along the cradle-to-career education pathway. Reading proficiently enables students to shift from “learning to read” by third grade to “reading to learn” after third grade to mastering the more complex subject matter they will encounter in later years.  In neighborhoods like the South Bronx, as many as 9 out of 10 third grade students haven’t reached this crucial milestone. 

ReadNYC is UWNYC’s response to this crisis.  In neighborhoods like Mott Haven and Brownsville, we are working with children, families, schools, and community partners on a shared goal of improving literacy rates and overall academic achievement. ReadNYC’s work is organized under six mutually reinforcing, evidence-based strategies or “levers” that contribute to a child’s well-being and ability to attain reading proficiency by third grade:

  1. School Readiness
    Access to high-quality services and educational interventions ensures that children have foundational language and literacy abilities, cognitive and general knowledge, and social-emotional skills
  2. Regular Attendance
    Educational interventions and support for parents and students ensure regular attendance in a high-quality learning environment
  3. Quality Instructional Leadership
    Expert coaching and professional development for school principals and teachers improve instruction, student learning, and academic achievement
  4. Quality Expanded & Summer Learning Opportunities
    High-quality academic enrichment opportunities add the equivalent of one to two months of school instruction annually
  5. Parent & Family Engagement
    School, community, and family partnerships increase parent and family involvement in supporting their children’s academic performance at home
  6. Health & Wellness
    Education and resources promote nutrition, increased levels of physical activity, and exercise during the school day and beyond; regular preventative checkups and chronic disease management reduce barriers to learning

See How ReadNYC Builds a Successful Young Reader



See Our Results to Date