One great thing that came out of our working on Uptown Lit: A Festival of Readers and Writers is that we had the opportunity to collaborate with a number of local organizations with similar or overlapping aims of celebrating literature and literacy in our neighborhood. One such group is the staff of Reach Out and Read, a program of the Ambulatory Care Network of NewYork-Presbyterian Hospital and Columbia University Medical Center. Reach Out and Read dispatches volunteer readers to waiting rooms in the various clinics in the area, so that young readers and potential readers are turned onto the joys of books at a young age. ROR has also created literacy fairs in past years, in collaboration with LiteracyINC, the New York Public Library, and others. Here is what ROR volunteer Edna Suarez had to say about Uptown Lit:
On October 19, 2013, Reach Out and Read of NewYork-Presbyterian Hospital Ambulatory Care Network partnered with Word-Up, Literacy Inc and many other community organizations to host a family literacy event for all ages at the United Palace.
It was hard to ignore a feeling of magic as soon as one entered the United Palace and looked towards the red-carpeted staircase in the center of its gilded and fabulously decorated lobby. The faces of small children walking up the stairs told a story of wonderment and anticipation. What they found at the top of the stairs did not fail to delight them as a small stage occupied by a pretty lady wearing butterfly wings was the first thing they set their eyes on. She was singing and telling stories to other children who were seated directly in front of the stage.
Smiling Uptown-Lit volunteers, would gently invite the curious children to sit and listen to the music. Older more adventurous children opted to check out the other activities. What they found were wonderful free books to take home. Trying to make the big decision of “what book to read,” didn’t seem too hard. Young mothers juggled their babies with one arm and, new chapter books in another as they followed their big readers around to the different tables.
Signing up for a library card was special. The children listened intently to the NYPL volunteer explain the rules for their card membership. The excitement was palpable as the children listened to a new book being read to them by its author. Neal Hoffman was there, with his 6 year old daughter, Shirley. He marveled at the amazing volunteers and especially liked the New York Public Libraries presence at the event, pointing out that getting library cards to children in this way was very smart. When asked her opinion of the festival Shirley replied “I like it a lot, I made two spiders and I got a ‘Nate the Great Book.'”
Shirley was referring to the wonderful literary arts and crafts offered to the children by Literacy Inc and Reach Out & Read. Ten year old, Araceli, was there with his mother Evgenia. She told me that she doesn’t read English, but that Araceli loves reading and she is always picking up a book to read. Sebastian and Emanuel 9 and 8 respectively, read to their 3 year old brother Emanuel. “ I try to read to them every day but they read a lot on their own,” said their mother. Sebastian added that he “loves to read long books.”
Sarah Durham and her 7 year old daughter, Alice thought, “it was great to have an event like this in our neighborhood.” Eight year old Adrian was there with his mother, Car-la, she described him as “big reader.” She was glad that they were also able to find beautiful picture books at the festival for his three year old brother Dylan to enjoy. Nayeli, a young mother who is learning to read English said that she tries to read to her son Billy, who is 4, everyday.