Promising Futures Made Brighter: Harlem Students Receive Gift of Books

By Mark Stubis

(Originally published by

A new page in the story about the future of New York’s children was written this week when a new library of hundreds of books was donated to the Children’s Harlem Zone Promise Academy Elementary I School. In a dedication ceremony held at the school, families, children, education officials, and philanthropists gathered to celebrate the liberating power of literacy and give young people the gift that lasts a lifetime.

Some 500 books were donated by the international afterschool enrichment organization Kumon, which has been working with hundreds of local children to improve their math and reading skills. Children took turns at the event reading from the books and will be able to select one to keep.

For many area children, reading is far too rare an experience. Literacy experts say that in middle-income neighborhoods there are an average of 13 books per child, but they estimate that the ratio is only one age-appropriate book for every 300 childrenin low-income neighborhoods.

“Our students and parents read daily together,” said Tonya L. White, the principal of Harlem Children’s Zone Promise Academy I Elementary School. “The donation from Kumon gives our students access to even more rich literature.”

Promise Academy I elementary schools have already done extremely well in shaping their young charges. In 2009 one hundred percent of the third-graders of PA1 scored on or above grade level in the statewide math program, and 94 percent of the third-graders were scored on or above grade level in English Language Arts. This newest support will further strengthen the education programs that are serving some of our most vulnerable students.

“Access to books is critical for a child’s academic and personal development,” said Hideki Kusuzawa, president of Kumon North America. “Literature opens the mind, and exposes children to stories that can inspire, teach and motivate them to reach their full potential.”

And that’s the kind of happy ending we want for all our children.

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