The National Jewish Coalition for Literacy is the organized Jewish community’s vehicle for mobilizing volunteer tutors and reading partners for at-risk children in kindergarten through 3rd grade. Our mission is to bring the skills and the concerns of America’s Jews to bear on the scandal of illiteracy by effecting a dramatic increase in the organized Jewish community’s involvement in the fight against illiteracy and in the number of Jews involved in that fight.
The importance of this effort can scarcely be exaggerated. The ability to read by the end of the third grade is a sensitive litmus test: those who can are likely to succeed in later grades and in life; those who cannot are likely to be in continuing academic trouble, and such trouble is very often a presage to significant downstream problems. One shorthand way to put this: Until 4th grade, children learn to read; from 4th grade on, they read to learn. Yet according to the National Assessment of Educational Progress, 24 percent of America’s 4th graders can read only at “basic level” (defined as “partial mastering of prerequisite knowledge and skills that are fundamental for proficient work or performing daily adult duties such as getting an insurance quote.”) and fully 37 percent actually score below even that. In low-income neighborhoods, matters are much worse: 70 percent of 4th graders read below basic level. Countless studies have shown that it becomes increasingly difficult to learn to read later in life, and that illiteracy is one of the largest obstacles to economic self-sufficiency as well as to “the good life,” however defined.
The NJCL believes that the American Jewish community is well positioned to play an important role in removing the obstacle of illiteracy. America’s Jews share as a common heritage a love for books and the written word, a commitment to quality education and a passion for the pursuit of social justice. The work that awaits is arduous, but it is work we can do – and the rewards, both to those who do the work and to our nation, are potentially immense.
Since its launch in 1997, some 50 communities have affiliated with the NJCL. Under their auspices, roughly 12,000 volunteers spend one hour a week working one-on-one with public school children (mostly in inner-city schools) in kindergarten through 3rd grade. In partnership with its many member agencies, the NJCL is leading the Jewish community’s endeavor: a coordinated effort to mobilize tens of thousands of volunteers – as tutors, readers, book drive organizers, and more – for this important undertaking.
The national jewish coalition for literacy is a coalition of 17 national jewish agencies and organizations and almost 50 local community affiliates committed to help all America’s children learn to read by the end of 3rd grade. Njcl’s affiliates mobilize and train volunteer tutors who offer one-on-one help in public schools. To learn more about our history and see how you can help, click on the links above.
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