Summertime means a chance for students and families to explore new books, learn new skills, and participate in events and activities at their local libraries. We announced this week that the New York State Education Department (NYSED) and the New York State Library are partnering with 1,100 public libraries and neighborhood branches statewide to launch the 2021 Summer Reading at New York Libraries program. The free, annual program gives children and their families the opportunity to access the vast resources of New York’s public libraries to support summer reading and learning. To kick off this year’s launch, Board of Regents Chancellor Young and I shared our thoughts about the Summer Reading program in a short video message, and we encourage you and your children to participate in the wide array of summer activities offered at your local libraries.
This year more than any other, it’s imperative that children continue learning during the summer months, and our Summer Reading program offers a tremendous opportunity to keep them engaged. Children that read in the summer enhance their reading skills, prevent summer learning loss, and are better prepared for a successful school year.
The 2021 Summer Reading slogan is “Tails and Tales” and libraries are planning many fun programs and events around this year's animal theme. Libraries across the state have reopened and will be offering a selection of exciting programming this summer. There will be special events, reading challenges, fun activities, and more throughout the summer months. And, creative teens can enter the 2021 national Teen Video Challenge for a chance to win state and national recognition and a cash prize for creating a short video to promote libraries and Summer Reading.
NYSED is committed to supporting districts and schools in their efforts to provide the best possible education and support to our students. This week, the United States Department of Education (USDE) approved NYSED’s Accountability and Report Card Waiver for the 2020-21 school year. USDE made the right decision in allowing NYSED this flexibility so we may focus on sustaining and, even expanding, high-quality support to districts and schools as they recover from the COVID-19 pandemic.
While accountability remains an important part of the work we do, we must acknowledge there are additional priorities in our schools now. With this waiver, districts can continue to provide services to all students by ensuring that instructional time can be used for immediate academic and social-emotional needs created by COVID-19, including the needs of students with disabilities, English Language Learners, and economically disadvantaged students.
Also this week, NYSED awarded more than $24 million in state-funded grants for extended school day and school violence prevention programs to 83 school districts and non-profit organizations across the state. The grants will be administered over a five-year period, from July 1, 2021 to June 30, 2026.
We know that when children are safe and engaged in after school programs, they will be better positioned to succeed academically. We are extremely grateful to Governor Cuomo, Speaker Heastie, Majority Leader Stewart-Cousins and the Legislature for providing the financial resources for these grants to prevent violence and to keep our students involved in safe and educational activities.
Finally, to all of this year’s graduates – including those who finished kindergarten, middle school, high school, and college – I want to extend my heartfelt congratulations. I know it has been a challenging year, but I hope each of our students can take some time at this moment to reflect on all they have accomplished and move forward with a sense of renewed hope as they take the next step on their educational journeys.
Thank you for all of your extraordinary efforts on behalf of your children this school year. I will continue to be in touch and provide updates in July and August. Until then, I wish you and your families a restful, joyous, and healthy summer.
Betty A. Rosa