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Elementary and Middle School Literacy Programs

Learn more about MS ExTRA and book clubs.
Email Natalie Colon
Director of Program Excellence
or call (646) 943-8735


At the start of the 2013-14 school year, ExpandED Schools  began collaborating with the New York City Department of Education’s Middle School Quality Initiative, NYC City Council, Robin Hood and Harvard EdLabs to accelerate students’ gains and get them securely on track to graduation through Middle School ExTRA—Middle School Expanded Day + Tutoring = Reading Achievement—a pioneering initiative that expanded the school day in 20 New York City middle schools.

"It is especially critical that we are getting the arts into more middle schools—this is a time when students are developing their academic and creative passions, and they should have exposure to the joy of arts. A great education has to prepare students for life and provide them with real-world, critical-thinking skills—and this just cannot be done without the arts."

— Chancellor Carmen Fariña
MS ExTRA focuses in on strategic school and community staff collaboration to ensure alignment of goals, school culture and ensuring student needs in the school and the expanded day. Each school, together with their community partner, expand the school day by two-and-a-half hours for students allowing ample time for active learning in such disciplines as the arts, STEM sports, academic and other enrichments. This allows for more time for a balanced day for all students. In addition, we enhance student learning through engaging and personalized instruction, allowing school and community partners to provide more opportunity for smaller group instruction and time for hands-on learning allowing time for students to ask questions and converse with one another.

Our literacy framework focuses in on early identification of struggling readers at the start of their middle school journey.  Students spend 3-5 hours each week receiving targeted literacy supports through book clubs. Studentsmeet with a trained literacy tutor for small group instruction using a common-core aligned curriculum aimed at supporting independent reading increasing reading comprehension.  With over 150 book titles and selections, students are able to have an array of choice selection of fiction and non-fiction high-interest books, which allows students tor, discuss the text and draw connections to their own lives gain exposure to new ideas and perspectives.

A rigorous study of the program’s first 3 years found that:

  • Students read an additional 403 pages (66,610 words) per year

  • School-day attendance improved

  • Black students made literacy gains equivalent to an additional month of school each year

Findings from the 2018-2019 school year found that:

  • Book club has supported an increase in reading proficiency across our 26 schools with an increase in students reading stamina and comprehension by providing dedicated reading time

  • Book club supported the development of students social emotional growth by fostering new relationships between peers and a stronger connection to tutors, increased confidence in independent reading, and increased respect of others opinions

  • Book club has direct alignment to schools overall literacy vision


Joel Nunez
For more information about Ready Readers:
Email Joel Nuñez
Literacy Program Director
or call (646) 943-8741

Ready and Rising Readers

In January 2016, we began supporting literacy – particularly vocabulary, comprehension and critical thinking – in early elementary after-school programs. Through read alouds, art projects and peer-to-peer discussions, young readers build fluency, delve into a book’s theme, build oral expression and make connections between the text and their lives, as well as the world around them. 

This initiative, in partnership with CAMBA, Chinese American Planning Council and Cypress Hills Development Corp, is funded by grants from the Brooke Astor Fund for New York City Education through the New York Community Trust. The goal of Ready Readers is to pilot a scalable model for improving students’ higher-order reading skills and build the capacity of community educators to deliver high-quality learning experiences that support literacy development.

Community educators participate in sequenced training workshops and collaborate and co-plan with classroom teachers to offer at least two hours of after-school literacy instruction each week. For 2019, we have introduced two new tracks of training that we are offering openly to all interested after-school program service providers. We are looking to take Ready Readers to a greater scale and at little or no costs to programs while still helping them meet requirements and provide their students with quality literacy activities.


ABC 7 reports on the middle school expanded learning time pilot: