University of Chicago’s My Very Own Library Will Distribute 240,000 Books to Newark Public Schools in Celebration of the Program’s 10th Anniversary

University of Chicago’s My Very Own Library Will Distribute 240,000 Books to Newark Public Schools in Celebration of the Program’s 10th Anniversary

Thirty-five participating Newark public schools will distribute 10 books to 24,000 children during the month of March

(Newark, NJ) March 17, 2021 – Today, Catherine Wilson, President & CEO of United Way of Greater Newark (UWGN), announced that their University of Chicago’s My Very Own Library (MVOL) program in Newark will distribute 240,000 books to participating Newark schools in celebration of its 10th anniversary. UWGN’s University of Chicago MVOL program aims to promote childhood literacy and foster a love of reading in young children. Since it was founded in 2011 in Newark, the program has provided more than 2 million books to elementary school students.

During the pandemic, the program has pivoted to continue providing free access to an online library of literacy resources and virtual book read-alouds from nationally recognized authors like Newark native, Tami Charles, author of “All Because you Matter.” With the support of the University of Chicago, MVOL has significantly increased the number of books and resources from women and authors of color.

“Youth empowerment and literacy are core pillars of our work and My Very Own Library is a key program in our community. At a time when children have been separated from their friends, peers, and teachers, missing out on crucial social and emotional bonds that are created when children are physically in school, My Very Own Library has been filling an important gap, pivoting its services to meet local needs,” said Wilson. “We are excited to celebrate this important milestone and look forward to continuing to increase access to quality educational resources and services for young children and their families.”

My Very Own Library began in eight Newark public schools and has grown each year, now currently operating in thirty-five schools. Before the pandemic, twice yearly, students attended Scholastic bookfairs where they would self-select five free books. Additionally, award winning children’s authors participated in school visits to discuss their books and hand out autographed copies. At the end of each school year, every participating school selects an All Star Reader who is recognized for their outstanding literacy achievements.

“United Way and Scholastic have been committed partners of the district for many years and we are proud to accept this incredibly generous donation of 240,000 books,” said Superintendent Roger León. “The My Very Own Library initiative continues to provide additional literature to every child in elementary school enabling them to build their very own libraries at home, improving their comprehension skills which are essential to academic growth and success, and opening their minds to endless possibilities and academic pursuits” he added.

“We are excited about the continued excellence of our partnership in Newark with the United Way and Newark Public Schools,” said Duane Davis, executive director of the University of Chicago’s My Very Own Library initiative. “During the pandemic, we have worked with Scholastic Book Fairs to offer students great book titles with characters and creators who come from communities like their own in Newark and across the country. Book access and book choice are central to our mission, and we are working to get more books into students’ hands and homes.”

“Promoting literacy among our children is the key to increasing student achievement and paving the way for future success,” said U.S. Senator Cory Booker. “As we continue to face challenges resulting from the coronavirus pandemic, successful programs like this are more important than ever in creating new opportunities for Newark youth and helping ensure our children reach their fullest potential.”

If you’re interested in supporting United Way of Greater Newark’s literary initiatives, visit:

About United Way of Greater Newark

United Way of Greater Newark’s (UWGN) mission is to disrupt the cycle of poverty by convening, collaborating and investing in strategies to improve outcomes for children and families. UWGN has a long history of convening disaster funds in the community, including having established the 9/11 fund, the Hurricane Sandy Relief Fund and, most recently, the Newark Water Fund. In order to continue providing support to the community and its non-profit partners during the COVID-19 crisis, UWGN has established the Community COVID-19 Fund. This is a regional fund serving its 13-municipality footprint including Newark, Irvington, East Orange, West Orange, South Orange, Orange, Belleville, Nutley, Maplewood, Kearny, Harrison, East Newark and North Arlington.

For more information about United Way of Greater Newark, please visit Follow us on Twitter: @UWGreaterNewark and #LiveUnited.

About My Very Own Library

My Very Own Library is a University of Chicago Elementary Education Initiative that focuses on bolstering literacy and fostering a love of reading while also empowering students to build their very own home libraries. The program has served more than 50,000 students in seven locations throughout the world, distributed more than 2 million books, hosted over 500 author visits, and worked with 100 school partners to engage families in more than 1,000 family literacy events since its inception in 2011.

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