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NYPL Out-of-School Time Program: Literacy Leaders

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NYPL Out-of-School Time Program: Literacy Leaders

New York Public Library, N.Y.

Workforce and Economic Development | 2015 | Top Innovator

Innovation Synopsis

Literacy Leaders is an after-school program in which at-risk teens are trained to be caring and confident reading coaches to elementary students. Teens earn credits towards graduation in a semester-long course in the fall and are then offered a paid internship to work with younger students in the spring and summer.


Principals of most inner city high schools in New York City struggle to provide teens with the academic and social-emotional skills needed to graduate. Many teens are motivated to graduate, but are often frustrated by the traditional classes offered at school. Meanwhile, while the library is widely accepted as a trusted community resource, branches often find it challenging to convince teens to make use of valuable collections and services. Literacy Leaders attracts teens because it offers them the chance to earn credits towards graduation in an informal education environment and in the context of a community service internship in which they take on empowering leadership roles.

Key Elements of Innovation

NYPL invested in a team of seasoned educators who create programs relevant and inspiring to youth, and that draw upon the library’s strengths as a trusted haven and literacy partner for schools and families. NYPL educators developed a curriculum aligned with Common Core ELA standards and approved by public school principals. The program represented a key library-school partnership that saw education staff working with guidance counselors and teachers to identify teens who are in danger of not graduating, but are motivated to improve. The paid internship provided a valuable professional development experience win which teens can build their resumes and confidence by tutoring and bonding with children in the library.

Achieved Outcomes

Literacy Leaders was piloted in September 2013 at two branches and expanded in 2014 to serve four branches. Thus far, over 200 teens have earned ELA elective credit for participating in this program, and over 250 first and second graders have received tutoring. NYPL is working with an NYU evaluator to assess the impact of Literacy Leaders. Anecdotally, feedback from teens has been positive. In August, one teen wrote: “I really enjoyed trying to make a difference in the lives of the youth of today. It was great to walk in everyday to each bright, young face eager to read with me.” Since the program began, NYPL has learned the importance of providing support to teens as they obtain working papers and ongoing coaching as they tutor their students.