Literacy Partners - Project Literacy

Literacy Partners

Founded in 1974, Literacy Partners has been a critical resource for New York City’s low-income and immigrant communities, serving more than 25,000 students.

We envision a future in which every parent has the tools to create success for themselves and a better future for their children. Children grow up in families with access to the resources and support they need to thrive.

What We Do

Literacy Partners offers free basic English and high school equivalency classes to adults in the five boroughs of New York City. Our English for Parents classes are delivered in partnership with Head Start programs for low-income children, so parents can come to class after dropping off their children at preschool.

All of our classes are taught by full-time professional educators and are supplemented by volunteers who lead discussion groups and provide one-on one tutoring outside of class. Unlike typical literacy classes, our parent education classes meet for 10 hours per week throughout the 36-week academic year.

A Two-Generation Approach

Children whose parents do not speak and read English or never completed high school typically lag far behind their peers with better educated parents. We aim to level the playing field. Our two-generation approach is based on extensive research on the factors that best predict children’s school readiness and reading proficiency: educational attainment of parents, how often children are read to by a parent, and the number of books at home.

Our classes integrate language and literacy education with the information parents need to promote their children’s early learning and navigate life in New York City. Our teachers coach their students to interact effectively with their children’s schools, the health care system, and financial institutions. Because most of our students are among the 60% of low-income families who do not own age-appropriate books for their children, we provide each of our students with 10 age- and culturally appropriate books for each of their children. For many of our students, these are the first books they have owned.

The Challenge

Low literacy and limited English proficiency among parents is the strongest predictor of children’s inability to thrive academically.

About one-quarter of New York City’s residents (2.1 million adults) are functionally illiterate in English, meaning that they lack the skills required for daily living and employment tasks beyond the most basic level. This largely hidden epidemic takes a profound toll on both adults and their children.

Educational attainment and English proficiency are key drivers of long-term family well-being.

In addition to emphasizing family conversation and reading, our classes convey the literacy and language skills and confidence that students need to navigate New York City’s subways, schools, banks, and health care system. Teachers coach parents through the process of obtaining library cards, email accounts, government identification, health insurance, and using the internet so that they can have access to the full range of information needed to succeed as parents, workers, and members of the community.