From left are Yolie Flores, LeVar Burton and Alberto M. Carvalho. (Families in Schools)

Families In Schools (FIS) launched its new literacy campaign Tuesday at L.A. Central Library.

“Read LA! Literacy and Justice for All” emphasizes the participation of all early education providers, parents, policymakers, and others to make early literacy a top priority.

The campaign is in association with longtime literacy advocate LeVar Burton, the executive producer of “The Right to Read.”

“It’s been tough for families since the pandemic,” noted moderator and FIS President/CEO Yolie Flores.

“Just one-third of Black, Latino, low-income 3rd graders are reading at grade level. We’re doing everything we can to accelerate for parents and children with learning issues. FIS looks out for the historically marginalized — Black, Brown, Latino, low income, and English learners — to elevate their voices, to share their hopes and aspirations, and partner with their schools to create the pathways for success. That’s the work that we do every day,” she said.

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Burton, the former host of “Reading Rainbow,” featured excerpts from his new documentary, which shares the stories of an NAACP activist, a teacher, and two families who fight to provide our youngest generation with the most foundational indicator of life-long success: the ability to read.

“I’m passionate about this film because it talks about the problem in a light that gives us hope. We have it within our capacity to make sure that no child grows up without learning to read. We just need to marshal the political will to do it,” he said.

“When we talk about how much we want for our children in this country, our actions belie that conversation. Until we stop spending so much money on bombs and the weapons of war and take some of that money to educate our kids, we’ll continue to fail them. You cannot have a functioning society and democracy unless you have a literate population,” Burton insisted.

Others spoke on demand-driven reform. “We’re tackling one of the greatest civil rights issues of our time,” declared LAUSD Superintendent Alberto Carvalho.

“For the parents of children today who may be the child of an illiterate parent themselves, if we do not change our ways and become impatient about reading reform, then we will usher in another generation of non-readers,” he said.

“You know who’ll be happy [with that]? Some politicians we know, and the builders of jails and penitentiaries, because for every single third grader that does not read today, they’re banking on that kid becoming an adult who will occupy a cell. Injustice is the best friend of illiteracy.

“Kids today are reading at a level equivalent to their level six to seven years ago. Add 3-4 more years if they are poor, of color, with disability, or are English language learners. I want parents angry and so aware of their condition and of their child’s condition that they put incredible pressure on me and on the school board,” snapped Carvalho.

“This is a reminder that getting exposed to books and learning to read in early developmental stages is a health and civil rights issue,” added City Librarian John Szabo.

“All sorts of good outcomes happen when the youngest in our communities are exposed to books and reading. Reading is important because it’s at the core of all good things in life. It opens doors and gives everyone equal opportunity. That’s what the public library is focused on everyday,” he said.

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