A free, citywide program is helping the youngest New Yorkers build a bright future through books. NY1's Van Tieu tells us about the City's First Readers Program that is helping parents make the most out of story-time.

It was more than just story-time at the Jackson Heights Queens Public Library Branch on Wednesday, where parents and children took part in the City’s Early Readers program.

It was full of song and dance, and the chance for parents to help little ones develop important language skills that will set them up for success in school.

Little ones like, 18-month-old Shavi. He loves books. He lights up while trying to communicate what he sees.

"We definitely want him to like enjoy reading not just for school, you know, like have a love for reading and for words too,” his mother, Fabiana Lee-Gontoro said. 

That's the goal for "City's Early Readers,” a $1.5 million initiative serving children ages zero to five.  Ten different partners in the city offer the program, including the Queens Public Library.

Officials say 2014 test scores showed 70 percent of New York City's third grade students were below reading level, and students who aren't exposed to reading early-on are more likely to drop out of high school.

That's why Director Ingrid Bentil said it's important to give parents the tools and tips early-on to make reading fun.

"This really is the foundation for children when they get ready to read," Bentil said. "They’ll have opportunities to you know, hear all kinds of language words and which helps them to love books."

Developing that love for reading also develops that love for knowledge. The City’s First Readers program recommends reading to your child 20 minutes a day to help set a strong, educational foundation.

"Twenty minutes everyday children to be on target to be able to read on grade level by the third grade, because if you’re exposed lots of books, lots of language, lots of literature, you’ll do better in your third grade test,“ Bentil said.

To learn more about the program, visit: citysfirstreaders.com.