RELEASE: Gottheimer Reads to Local North Jersey Kindergarten Class in Recognition of Read Across America

Mar 05, 2024
Press

Announces New Free Book Program for Jersey Schools and Libraries

Above: Gottheimer reading to Walter-Stillman Elementary School students.

TENAFLY, NJ — Today, March 5, 2024, U.S. Congressman Josh Gottheimer (NJ-5) visited Walter Stillman Elementary School to read to the first-grade class as a part of the nationwide Read Across America campaign. Gottheimer also announced his new “Free Book Program” — a completely free program to ensure that every child across North Jersey has access to the books they need to succeed.

Video of Gottheimer’s announcement can be found here.

Gottheimer read “We Don’t Eat Our Classmates” by Ryan T. Higgins. It’s about a T-Rex in a class full of kids that teaches important lessons about empathy, getting along, and following the rules.

“We know that if our kids have access to more books, more books to take out of a library, or to read or borrow from school, they will do better. Making sure Jersey students can succeed isn’t a Democrat or Republican issue, it’s a good for Jersey families issue that we can all tackle together,” said Congressman Josh Gottheimer. “That’s why today, I’m launching a new, completely free program to ensure that every child across North Jersey has access to the books they need to succeed. My new ‘Free Books Program’ is a one-stop shop to provide books free of charge for North Jersey schools and libraries from the Library of Congress’ Surplus Books Program.”

Gottheimer’s Free Book Program

  • Offers a wide range of available books, including fiction and nonfiction novels, children’s books, textbooks, cookbooks, audio books, and more.
  • Eligible organizations can simply apply on the website with a short, basic questionnaire.
  • Qualifying organizations include educational institutions like schools, libraries, museums, and more.
  • The program and books are completely free of charge.
  • The program and more information can be found here: https://gottheimer.house.gov/gottheimers-free-book-program 

Reading in New Jersey

  • In Jersey, only 67 percent of fourth grade students can read at a basic level and it’s even lower for Jersey’s historically underserved students.
  • Students who are not reading at grade level by the time they reach fourth grade are four times more likely to drop out of high school.
    • This can lead to additional challenges as adults including lower lifetime earnings, higher rates of unemployment, and higher likelihood of entering the criminal justice system.
  • Even though English scores in Jersey are improving, they still aren’t at the rates we reached before the pandemic.
    • Scores in math, English, and science went up about two percentage points for each subject between 2022 and 2023, but remained well below 2019 levels. 51.3 percent met or exceeded expectations in English, compared with 57.6 percent in 2019.

Gottheimer was joined by Tenafly School District Superintendent Dr. Michael Ben-David and Walter Stillman Elementary School Principal Gayle Lander and 1st Grade Teacher Ms. Jessica Berg.

Below: Gottheimer with Walter-Stillman Elementary School students.

Gottheimer’s remarks as prepared for delivery: 

Good morning. It’s great to be here at Walter-Stillman Elementary School for National Read Across America Week. Thank you Principal Lander and Ms. Berg and all of the educators here. As the son of a former teacher, and a public school kid, I know just how important the work you do is. You’re making a lasting difference, and I’m grateful.

The goal of Read Across America is to promote literacy and a love of reading – and to encourage our kids to explore the world of books and reading. Whether it’s at home or school, every day our children are reading is another day we invest to help them achieve their goals.

Before I joined you here, I read a great book with first graders called “We Don’t Eat Our Classmates.” It’s about a T-Rex in a class full of kids that teaches important lessons about empathy, getting along, and following the rules. It was both serious and silly. They may only be in first grade right now, but with hard work, plenty of reading, and the support of New Jersey’s incredible educators, the sky is the limit. 

But, we obviously can’t read to our kids forever, they need to learn to read proficiently on their own, and want to pick up a book, and not just in the classroom. It’s up to us to help make sure that’s a reality for every child in North Jersey — because no child should ever get left behind. Every child in New Jersey must learn to read and have access to books, whether that’s in school, at home, in the local library. We have to make sure our kids know the power of getting lost in a book.  

Here’s the problem. According to the most recent National Assessment of Education Progress, in Jersey, overall, only 67 percent of fourth-grade students can read at a basic level. Unfortunately, it’s even lower for students in Jersey’s historically underserved communities. 

On last year’s state Student Learning Assessment, English language arts proficiency for Black and Hispanic students was 33.7 percent and 37.1 percent. 77 percent of low-income eleventh grade students failed the language arts portion of the state’s exam measuring graduation readiness. While Jersey’s reading scores are actually higher than the national average, these proficiency rates are still way too low.  

Students who are not reading at grade level by the time they reach fourth grade are four times more likely to drop out of high school. 

Research has shown us this can lead to serious challenges later in life, including lower wages, higher rates of unemployment, and higher likelihood of entering the criminal justice system.

And, on top of it, we still haven’t recovered to pre-pandemic reading levels. In fact, while about 51 percent met or exceeded expectations in English, that number was at more than 57 percent in 2019.

We must do everything we can to ensure that every Jersey student can reach their potential, whether that’s in this school or in a classroom or library anywhere in our state.  

We know that if our kids have access to more books, more books to take out of a library, or to read or borrow from school, they will do better. According to the US Department of education, students who have access to more books in their homes have better literacy outcomes. So, we need more books to read and to lend.

That’s why, today, during Read Across America Week, I’m launching a new, completely free program to ensure that every child across North Jersey has access to the books they need to succeed. My new “Free Books Program” is a one-stop shop to provide books free of charge for North Jersey schools and libraries from the Library of Congress Surplus Books Program. This portal can be found on the front of my website at http://Gottheimer.House.gov

North Jersey’s great schools and libraries can fill out the form on my website and request up to fifty books at a time. From fiction to nonfiction novels, sci-fi and children’s books, and even textbooks, there’s truly no limit to the possibilities this near-limitless supply of books can offer for Jersey’s children.

Again, this program is available completely free of charge to our schools and libraries.

According to experts, the importance of letting students choose books that interest them is key — that’s exactly what this new portal will help achieve.  

I’ve always been laser-focused on making sure our students have what they need in our schools to succeed – whether that’s a book or a school meal.  I’m helping lead the Universal School Meals Program Act to allow any child who qualifies for reduced meals to receive them at no cost and to cut red tape to enroll in school meal programs. Our children are rockets ready to take off, but they won’t reach their dreams without fuel in the tank. The same way they won’t take off if they don’t have enough books to read. 

Making sure Jersey students can succeed isn’t a Democrat or Republican issue, it’s a good for Jersey families issue that we can all tackle together. 

I want to wish all our students and educators across North Jersey a great rest of the school year. Please know, I will never stop fighting for each and every one of you.

It’s schools filled with bright and talented students like those here that make me confident that, in the greatest country in the world, our best days will always be ahead of us.

May God bless you, your families, and may God continue to bless the United States of America.

###

Recent Posts


Apr 18, 2024
Press

RELEASE: Gottheimer Remembers Jersey Firefighter and Labor Leader Bobby Allen on House Floor

WASHINGTON, DC — Today, April 18, 2024, U.S. Congressman Josh Gottheimer (NJ-5) honored and memorialized the life of Robert “Bobby” Allen, a Paterson firefighter and New Jersey labor leader, in a floor speech.  Video of Congressman Gottheimer’s floor speech can be found here. Bobby began his career with the Paterson Fire Department in 1992, serving as a […]



Apr 16, 2024
Press

RELEASE: House Passes Gottheimer-led Bipartisan Resolution Condemning Antisemitic “From the River to the Sea” Chants

WASHINGTON, DC — Today, Tuesday, April 16, 2024, U.S. Congressman Josh Gottheimer (NJ-5), Congressman Anthony D’Esposito (NY-4), and Congressman Jared Moskowitz (FL-23) led a bipartisan resolution that successfully passed the House. The resolution, H.R. 883, condemns the chant “From the River to the Sea, Palestine Will be Free” as antisemitic. The resolution passed the House by a […]



Apr 16, 2024
Press

RELEASE: House Passes Gottheimer-led Bipartisan Legislation Prohibiting China from Purchasing Iranian Petroleum Products

Above: Gottheimer on the House floor. WASHINGTON, DC — Today, Monday, April 15, 2024, U.S. Congressman Josh Gottheimer (NJ-5), urged his colleagues to vote for the Iran-China Energy Sanctions Act — bipartisan legislation he is leading with his Problem Solvers Caucus colleague, Rep. Mike Lawler (NY-17). This legislation, which unanimously passed the House Financial Services Committee, expands sanctions […]