images of parents with their children
June 14, 2019
Dear Parents,

Summer is just around the corner, which means it's time to register your kids for the 2019 Summer Reading Program. This free, annual program gives children the opportunity to access the vast resources of New York's public libraries to support their summer reading.

This year's summer reading program slogan is "A Universe of Stories." Children and teens participating in the program receive book recommendations and engage in creative and fun educational activities at their local libraries. Library staff help children select reading materials and provide literacy-enhancing programs such as storytelling, music, creative arts, and performances. At the end of the program, participants receive formal recognition and celebrate their summer reading goals and achievements.

In addition, students can download free e-books this summer thanks to our partnership with myON by Renaissance. Now through September 30, New York State children and their families can access a digital library of more than 6,000 e-books. Learn more about summer reading and find out how to access free e-books.

Regent Elizabeth Hakanson and I recently celebrated the launch of the summer reading program at the Utica Public Library. We were joined by library officials, educators, elected officials, and members of the Utica community to speak about the importance of summer reading and preventing summer slide. I was thrilled to participate in story time with a first grade class from Kernan Elementary School (Utica City School District) and enjoyed reading Pete the Cat: Out of This World by James Dean.

It's so important for children to continue learning during the summer, and our summer reading program helps them stay engaged and prevent summer slide. Whether it's print books, e-books, or audio books, there's something for everyone to read and enjoy at their local library. I encourage you to visit your local library with your children and sign up for a summertime of free reading, learning, and fun.

Another program that I'm excited about is New York State's My Brother's Keeper initiative. The New York State Education Department (NYSED) recently hosted the 2019 New York State My Brother's Keeper (MBK) Symposium in Albany. This year's theme was "Building Pipelines to Opportunity," which represents NYSED's mission to eliminate opportunity gaps faced by boys and young men of color so that all students can reach their full potential. Nearly 1,000 students, parents, educational leaders, and citizens from across New York State gathered to hear about the impact of MBK, gain valuable knowledge, and get motivated to implement new strategies in their communities to solve issues impacting boys and young men of color. The event included nationally renowned speakers, student-led panels, workshops, and a college resource fair.

At the Symposium, NYSED named the second class of MBK Fellows who were identified as leaders in their MBK communities and who will be provided with mentor relationship opportunities in government, education, and business. The 67 Fellows, all high school juniors, represent 22 New York State school districts who attended the Symposium with their mentors. 

I'm excited to see how we are building on the MBK Fellows program, nearly doubling the number of Fellows in this year's class and providing valuable leadership resources for boys and young men of color. Assembly Speaker Carl Heastie made the Fellows program possible by championing MBK and working with the Legislature and the Executive to secure funding to support New York State's MBK initiative. We thank Speaker Heastie and his colleagues for their continued support.

Finally, NYSED and the New York State Office of Alcoholism and Substance Abuse Services (OASAS) issued updated joint guidance and resources for school districts to assist with addressing substance abuse. The collaboration provides districts with information to assist students, teachers, and parents looking for help and support related to substance use. 

Substance abuse can impact anyone, and it is destroying lives every day. To effectively combat this epidemic, we need to put information and treatment resources within reach of all those who need it. I thank our partners at OASAS for their expertise and commitment to this important initiative. Together, we can keep students across New York State healthy and safe. 

Thank you for taking the time to read about what's happening at NYSED. I appreciate all you do to support strong family and community involvement in our schools.
MaryEllen Elia