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Kumon donates library to homeless shelter

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Children living in Homes for the Homeless’ shelter on Kelly Street are hundreds of books richer thanks to the generosity of Kumon Math & Reading Centers, the world’s largest after-school education company.

At a dedication ceremony on Thursday, January 7, Kumon North America president Hideki Kusuzawa presented Prospect Family Inn with a complete set of new books from Kumon’s recommended reading list and 1,200 more collected by Kumon staff and students. The shelter is at 730 Kelly Street, between Longwood Avenue and E. 156th Street. Prospect Family Inn education coordinator Daniel Kennedy had students from the shelter’s after-school program read from A Bridge to Terabithia and Roll of Thunder, Hear My Cry.

“Access to books is critical for a child’s academic and personal development,” Kusuzawa said. “Books expose children to the world and can inspire them to think analytically, dream and reach their full potential.”

After the reading, each child from the shelter’s after-school program was allowed to select a book of his or her own to keep. They picked picture books such as The Cat in Hat and chapter books such as Treasure Island.

“I hope that the students will learn from these books,” Kennedy said.

Kennedy observed that Kumon’s donation was especially important because many of the books are new.

“Usually when we receive donations we get used books that include everything from read-aloud children’s books to college textbooks, and we have to search through to find the appropriate books,” Kennedy said. “These were more carefully selected for children aged five to 18.”

The shelter’s after-school program offers needed stability and mentors for students often at a disadvantage in school because they haven’t been able to establish roots in any one community.

“[Kumon’s donation] will promote independent reading for pleasure,” Kennedy said. “Many of our students are Spanish speakers learning English as a second language. These books will help them build their English skills.”

Low-income neighborhoods need books. According to Homes for the Homeless, the ratio of books to children in middle-income neighborhoods is 13 to one, while low-income neighborhoods is the ratio is one to 300.

“We believe that education is the key to breaking the cycle of poverty,” Homes for the Homeless program associate Margaret Menghini said. “Reading is an essential component of education the leads to unlimited opportunities for success.”

Reach reporter Patrick Rocchio at 718 742-3393 or procchio@cnglocal.com

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