In the 90s, the New York Times published a report showing that 75% of New York City public school students failed the state’s English Language Arts Exam each year. Maureen Rover, who had recently retired from a successful career working in education and publishing, asked herself one question: How could we—the wealthiest country on earth—let this happen? And from there, she made it her mission to change the statistics, and most importantly, change the lives of thousands of children along the way. In 2001, the Reading Team was born.
Harlem, where the Reading team is based, is ranked as one of the poorest neighborhoods in New York City. Here, gains in any aspect of day-to-day life are typically measured in centimeters, so when this all-new literacy initiative moved children from the 30th to 80th percentile for reading in just one year, the community took notice. This program could provide high-risk children with skills that would support their future success in school—and in life. The Reading Team soared and hasn’t stopped growing since the first group of 72 wide-eyed four year olds walked through the doors in October 2001.
While the concept of the program seemed simple, the style and method of the Reading Team’s approach to learning was something that had never been done. After years of watching and observing her own children at home and teaching in K-3 classrooms, Maureen understood that the best opportunities for kids to learn were outside of a structured sit-in-your-seat classroom setting.
With the Reading Team, children are welcome to pull up a bean bag, find a comfortable spot on the sofa or spread out on their bellies to do assignments on the floor. There is discipline and structure, but to the children, it feels a whole lot like fun. Here, the dictionary quickly becomes a trusted friend and books become a valued piece of property. Here, children go from liking books to loving them.
When it comes to progress, the math for the Reading Team adds up. In 2016, only 21% of all children in Harlem passed the state-mandated Common Core testing. BUT 80% OF STUDENTS FROM THE READING TEAM PASSED.
Today, roughly 8,000 of Harlem’s most vulnerable children can call Maureen Rover their hero. So can we. Please help us in congratulating Maureen Rover on her outstanding accomplishments as our 2017 World of Children Education Award Honoree!