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America Reads was launched in 1997 under the Clinton administration, challenging every American to help children learn to read competently and independently by the end of elementary school. Building on the success of America Reads, America Counts was initiated two years later to assist students in mastering mathematics by the end of the ninth grade. Most N.Y.U. tutors assist in both subject areas.
“N.Y.U. was one of the original universities involved in America Reads when the program began, and this year the collective hours of all of our tutors is expected to pass the 4 million hour mark — 4 million hours of assistance to New York City public school students by N.Y.U. students at absolutely no cost to the public school system. That’s quite a remarkable achievement,” said Bill Pfeiffer, N.Y.U.’s director of the Office of Civic Engagement. “It’s a powerful testament to N.Y.U.’s commitment to New York City’s children and schools.”
The program is housed in N.Y.U.’s Office of Civic Engagement, working in collaboration with the university’s Steinhardt School of Culture, Education and Human Development. The training and orientation that tutors receive is built upon the work and expertise of N.Y.U. faculty within the Steinhardt School. The Steinhardt Office of Field Projects, which has extensive outreach into the New York City school system, lines up tutors with elementary and middle schools throughout Manhattan, Brooklyn and the Bronx.
America Reads and Counts tutors come from almost every college at N.Y.U. About one-third of the tutors are enrolled in the Steinhardt School; one-third in the College and Graduate School of Arts and Science; and the remaining tutors are enrolled in the Tisch School of the Arts, Wagner School of Public Service, Stern School of Business, Silver School of Social Work, the Gallatin School for Individualized Study and the Liberal Studies Program.
“You don’t need to be in a teacher-training program to be a good America Reads and Counts tutor because tutors are always supervised and directed by a classroom teacher,” said Lee Frissell, director of Field Projects at Steinhardt. “But, of course, those who are planning to be teachers bring special skills to the job, and have an especially rich experience.”
Tutors are allowed to develop weekly work schedules with their assigned teachers, working between six and 20 hours per week in the school. Working in conjunction with their classroom teacher, students can modify their work schedules each semester, maximizing the amount of time they can assist in the classroom while also meeting their academic obligations at N.Y.U.
“The program is designed to make working in schools attractive and manageable for our students, while also ensuring that each classroom we serve has a consistent tutor presence,” said Pfeiffer.
“It has added a wonderful dimension to my experience at N.Y.U.,” said Anita SenGupta, a junior economics major from Cincinnati, Ohio, who has worked for three years in The Laboratory School of Finance and Technology in The Bronx. “In addition to the satisfaction I have received from helping my students, I have developed a new understanding and appreciation of the complexities of public education. I have also gotten to know New York City — its families, children and working people — in a way that I think would otherwise have been impossible.”
Mary Brabeck, dean of the Steinhardt School of Culture, Education and Human Development at N.Y.U., pointed to another benefit.
“Many students who never planned to become teachers decide to do so as a result of their work with America Reads,” Brabeck noted. “And many others become interested in careers in which education and social engagement are central.”
“It’s a win-win-win situation,” said Lynne Brown, N.Y.U.’s senior vice president for university relations and public affairs, within whose division the program is administered. “The schools, teachers and schoolchildren get direct assistance from bright, committed N.Y.U. students at no cost; the N.Y.U. students get good-paying, socially meaningful, personally rewarding jobs; and the university gets to demonstrate its deep and sincere commitment to this great city, with which its fortunes are inextricably intertwined.”