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Baraka Launches Citywide Pilot Program To Promote Reading

Ang Santos

Mayor Ras Baraka has launched a pilot program he hopes will get more Newarkers to read books.  

The first phase of the free pilot program allows students to sign up online or at the local library and choose between two books.  Baraka is calling it the Mayor’s Book Club, an opportunity to promote literacy outside of the classroom.

“Allow people the opportunity to read as fun, as adventure,” Baraka said.  “And do it when people are not beating you up to make you do it.  Read something that you like to read.  Something that is interesting.  In fact, I would implore you to read more of what you want to read than what other people are trying to force you to read.  I think it will make reading what they want you to read easier to do if you read more of the things that you like to read.”

Credit Ang Santos / WBGO
Students and parents spend a day off from school at the Newark Public Library, where Mayor Ras Baraka launches the #NewarkReads initiative

Newark’s Chief Education Officer Antoinette Baskerville-Richardson says they’re calling the program #NewarkReads.  It’s expected to roll out and reach all levels of education by 2020 and eventually adults that struggle to read.

“Improve their reading, make them eligible for better employment and higher levels of education,” Baskerville-Richardson said.

Each of the city’s public library branches will host a schedule of events around #NewarkReads, to spark conversation among readers.

Credit Ang Santosq / WBGO
Panasonic donated $80,000 to #NewarkReads to help get it started.

“They’ll find the people to have these conversations with their peers and everybody else,” Mayor Baraka said.  “Especially when they find out that they’re reading the same materials I think kids will have those discussions about it.”