With Homeless Population Soaring, NYC Begins Pilot Program Sending Teachers Into Shelters

With homelessness at record levels, the city announces the placement of teachers in 18 homeless shelters to help some of the city's most vulnerable children improve their reading ability. Our education reporter, Lindsey Christ, has more.

At this homeless shelter in Brooklyn — the Flushing Family Residence, Department of Education teachers are now helping kids to read. 

Schools Chancellor Carmen Fariña came here to announce the new program, called the After School Reading Club.

Homeless students have persistently low attendance rates, test scores and graduation rates. 

The new literacy pilot program is part of Mayor Bill de Blasio's push to better serve the growing numbers of homeless children.

More than 81,000 public school students — one in every thirteen — were homeless at some point during the last academic year.

"You have families who are moving on a regular basis and don't have access to books or change schools," Fariña said. "You know if you're moving and you're at one school for two months and then another school for two months, the teachers have to reassess all the time."

Now three times a week, from 3 to 6 p.m. public school teachers are running the reading program, serving 1,400 elementary school students living in 18 shelters. 

Twice a week, students are given a new book for their own personal collection.

"They are familiar with the books and then they go home and they have siblings that are either younger that not able to come or older siblings and they can share the books," said teacher Valerie Facciola.

One of the goals is to help parents learn how to work with their children on reading skills.

"I feel it really helps them because if they take the time out to read and I see they are trying to read something that is interesting to them and they don't understand it and they come to me, I feel crazy cause I don't know what it is," said shelter resident Tashia Touray.

The After School Reading Club pilot will cost $1.4 million. It's part of the city's $10 million investment this year in a variety of pilot programs aimed to help kids living in shelters.

The Department of Education will be studying whether it has any impact on students' attendance or reading performance.

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