ReadNYC & Our Focus on Literacy to Build a Stronger City!

Why Spread the Words

United Way of New York City needs you to join our fight for literacy and help us #spreadthewords. Our ReadNYC program’s Spread the Words campaign underscores the power of education, specifically literacy, to help individuals and families lead self-sufficient lives—lives with roofs over heads, food on the table, lights on, gas running, and good health care without needing public or private assistance.  

At United Way of New York City, we know the key to being a self-sufficient adult and caregiver is getting a strong, quality education as a child. And we know that getting this type of education not only depends on schools and teachers but also family and neighborhood support. That’s why our ReadNYC program is rallying impact-makers, like you, across the boroughs to fight for literacy—to spread the words.   

The Literacy Challenge in New York City

A child’s ability to read by third grade directly impacts his or her future. Third grade is the year kids move from learning to read to reading to learn. 

Unfortunately, children from low-income families often don’t have access to quality education. In fact, research shows us that children from low-income families may hear up to 30 million fewer words than their more affluent peers by age three, and more than 60% of low-income families don’t have children’s books at home. Inevitably, this gap and lack of books impacts children’s performance at school:  sadly in New York City, six out of 10 students are not reading on grade-level. Moreover, children who don’t read on grade-level by third grade are 74% more likely to drop out of high school—more likely to find themselves struggling to make ends meet as adults and continuing a devastating cycle of poverty.

ReadNYC: United Way of New York City’s Solution

To break this cycle of poverty, we know we must help families and communities as a whole, from the child who can’t read, to the educators who are under-resourced, to the parents who can’t make ends meet. Our ReadNYC program takes a powerful collective approach— bringing together companies, nonprofit partners, foundations, government agencies, and individuals like you to the table, to set a unified, full-spectrum strategy—that’s fighting for literacy by building access to quality education for children while empowering their parents’ or caregivers’ abilities to form more stable homes. 


ReadNYC meets the key goals of healthy births, early development, and reading proficiently on this step ladder by working with our partners in business, government, and nonprofit sectors to offer families, schools, and communities a variety of aligned supports like building at-home libraries, coaching for teachers and principals, and financial counseling for parents. Through this collective, strategic approach ReadNYC, alongside our EducateNYC, FeedNYC, StrengthenNYC, and in-development WorkNYC programs, is driving families toward self-sufficiency—to be able to cover the basics without the need for public or private assistance.

A Closer Look: ReadNYC’s Aligned Supports

ReadNYC is helping children and families succeed by making sure they are getting the support they need within the below areas. All these supports—working together—are what set the environment to achieve self-sufficiency.

  1. School Attendance
  2. Summer and Expanded-day Learning
  3. Free Dental Screenings
  4. Professional Development
  5. Home Libraries & Parent Literacy Training
  6. Financial Coaching
  7. English-language Education
  8. Community School and Wraparound Supports
  9. In-School Fitness Programming
  10. One-on-one Tutoring

ReadNYC in Action: Meet Deysi—a ReadNYC Mom Creating a Better Life for Her Family

ReadNYC’s Impact

ReadNYC is seeing huge success! Last year alone, investments from supporters, like you, helped:

  • Empower more than 700 students, nearly 200 parents, 150 teachers, and 23 principals.
  • Build at-home libraries for more than 700 children below age five, delivering one free book per month to their home for a year.
  • Connect more than 100,000 households to essential benefits—eviction prevention, emergency utility assistance, financial coaching—to help move them along the path to self-sufficiency. 

And while our families are achieving great milestones, there’s still a lot to be done. ReadNYC’s fight for literacy is our fight—it takes the might and power of people like you, who believe that no matter economic status, race, or creed, everyone deserves a chance to thrive in New York City.

Today, you can give more than money. You can give the gift of literacy, opportunity, and self-sufficiency.

Fight for literacy with us right now—donate today and spread the words!