Many people know Mario Batali as the energetic TV chef and restaurateur, but some are unaware of his role as a philanthropist. In 2008, he launched the Mario Batali Foundation, aiming to make sure children are well read, well fed and well cared-for.
Since then, the foundation has worked with numerous organizations that share the same goal. One of those, Books for Kids, has as its mission the promotion of literacy among children in low-income, high-risk communities across the country.
Their latest collaboration is helping to bring a new and improved library to the children of Goddard Riverside. Nearly 70 percent of children enrolled in Goddard Riverside’s daycare center, at 114 W. 91st St., live below the poverty line. The new library will serve almost 100 children in the neighborhood.
“To be able to help children read, to give them this fundamental building block to a successful life, is remarkable. I am ecstatic that my foundation is able to help create a Books for Kids library and champion literacy programs for all children in need,” Batali said at the opening on Sept. 13.
The ribbon-cutting ceremony included a dedication ceremony, book reading and tour of the new library. An animated Batali read the children the Dr. Seuss story “Green Eggs and Ham.” Prior to the reading, the preschoolers showed their own interpretation of the story to Batali and sang “Twinkle, Twinkle, Little Star” for guests.
The new library includes a much larger selection of books and a colorful reading space that invites children in to read and learn. The children will now also have the opportunity to take books home.
“Books for Kids is once again thrilled and honored to have the continued support of the Mario Batali Foundation in the creation of a Books for Kids library in a community in great need on the Upper West Side,” Shawna Hamilton Doster, Books for Kids executive director, said.
Doster explained that Books for Kids wants to bridge the gap for low-income children and give them the same opportunities as other children in the city.
City Council Member Gail Brewer, who represents the Upper West Side, attended the event and explained that she is happy to see the new and improved library, and that Goddard Riverside has always been trying to help the residents.
“There is no question that a library of this magnitude will go far in supporting our school readiness goals for our young children and be a major resource for our families,” stated Stephan Russo, the executive director of Goddard Riverside Community Center.
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