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NYer of the Week: Mimi Lieber Helps More Students Learn to Read by Third Grade

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The latest New Yorker of the Week says 72 percent of public school children are not reading on grade level by third grade, and for almost two decades, she's worked to change that. NY1's John Schiumo filed the following report.

When kids are read to at any early age, many do better in school. It's something Mimi Lieber learned after working for more than 15 years at the state Board of Regents.

"If you don't have enough teachers in the classroom, or children aren't quite ready to learn to read, it's not something you can just make a law about," Lieber says. "We had to go figure out a way to make it happen for children who didn't have all of the advantages of having very educated and very well-off parents."

So Lieber made it happen for children living in low-income neighborhoods. In 1996, she founded Literacy Inc., a nonprofit that focuses on helping students to read by the third grade.

"If you don't learn to read, you're headed for trouble. That's too bad, but it's a fact," Lieber says. "Because in fourth grade, all of a sudden, they bring in math and social studies and science."

Lieber says the key is empowering parents to invest in their students' education. Through year-long programs at dozens of schools and libraries, LINC connects families with resources in their communities.

"I can share time with my daughters and also help the children in the community become good readers," Rocio Polonio, a parent and volunteer, says through an interpreter.

"The message is, you can do this. You can help your children, and you don't need a lot of money. You can do this," says Danita Nichols, library manager at the Inwood Public Library.

Thousands of families in the five boroughs have, thanks in part to an 86-year-old with a love of reading.

“She reads books that are real and true, and so those books makes you learn more," says Alexandra Cuello, a participant in the program.

"Every book sounds interesting to me," says Isabella Irizarry, a participant in the program.

So, for helping families turn the page to a new chapter of success, Mimi Lieber is our New Yorker of the Week.


For more information about Literacy Inc., visit

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