The municipalities selected for the effort are Jersey City, Trenton, Clifton, Neptune, Hightstown, Mount Arlington, and Hope.
"We plan to reach out in our communities and adapt the Mayor's Book Club model in ways that promote an early literacy agenda and help young children enter school ready to succeed," Hope Mayor Tim McDonough, the League's president, said in Trenton.With support from The Verizon Foundation and additional sponsor PSE&G, the National League of Cities, and the League of Municipalities will partner with the National Center for Family Literacy to provide the seven cities and towns with technical assistance over a period of one year as they develop local early literacy action plans centered around the development of a Mayor's Book Club.
Beginning with Tuesday's kick-off leadership academy, this assistance will include tailored information about the latest research and best practices; connections to national experts; practical advice on planning and implementation; and cross-city peer learning opportunities.
Such cities as Charleston, S.C., Jacksonville, Fla., Longmont, Colo., and Lynchburg, Va., have incorporated the Mayor's Book Club program into their broader early care and education plans. These cities have partnered with childcare centers, libraries, businesses, and community groups to sponsor a range of activities that include:
- Providing parents with educational supplies and each month's featured book;
- Sponsoring book drives and literacy events;
- Recruiting and training volunteers who read to children and distribute materials;
- Making games, resources, and classes for promoting literacy available to parents;
- Issuing public service announcements on the importance of early literacy; and
- Having the mayor read a book to a group of young children each month at a library or on local public access television or radio stations.
"New Jersey is fortunate to have many elected officials – including Governor Corzine and the mayors launching book clubs today – who recognize that early literacy is one of the most important building blocks to a successful future for our children," said state Education Commissioner Lucille E. Davy. "Our own high-quality preschool program has shown instilling 3- and 4-year-old students with strong literacy skills benefits them for the rest of their lives. It is incumbent upon all of us as parents and educators to start even earlier with children to encourage a love of reading."
"Mayors recognize the importance of early care and education to the future of New Jersey," said Montgomery Mayor Louise Wilson. "Our communities' economic vitality depends on our success in providing high-quality education – and a crucial role that city leaders play is promoting school readiness among children well before first grade."
"We view the Mayor's Book Club as another tool to promote early childhood literacy in New Jersey and Verizon is proud to reinvest our resources towards this innovative civic approach in literacy and education in the Garden State," said Sam Delgado, vice president of External Affairs for Verizon NJ, Inc., the major corporate sponsor of the effort.
"In Trenton, our Mayor's Book Club focus will be on reading for problem solving," said Mayor Douglas H. Palmer. "With older children as mentors, our children will be reading about the importance of helping others, staying healthy, and succeeding in school and college. These are real issues – and reading brings them home."
The state League of Municipalities Educational Foundation envisions itself as an independent forum for creative thinking; exploring innovative ideas; providing information and expert analysis to foster good public policy; implementing pilot programs; and encouraging a non-partisan dialogue centered on the issues, goals and priorities of municipal government.
– TOM HESTER SR., NEWJERSEYNEWSROOM.COM