Skip to main content

Kean University

Kean University, Hillside Township Launch Literacy Initiative

A literacy hub, offering books for children and families to borrow, is in the Hillside Municipal Building.

Kean University is helping to spark a love of reading among Hillside children and families, joining forces with the township and Scholastic to provide culturally relevant books in “literacy hubs” placed around the community.

The Division of Entrepreneurial Education Initiatives (EEI) at Kean launched the Hillside Community Literacy Initiative under the direction of Kean President Lamont O. Repollet, Ed.D. 

“As New Jersey’s urban research university, Kean works to positively impact the lives of residents in our state’s urban communities. I can think of no better way to share the love of reading with Hillside’s families and help increase student academic achievement than by bringing books directly into the community,” Repollet said. “Reading is the launch pad for students’ academic success from elementary school through college. We are thrilled to work with Hillside and Scholastic to foster that passion.”

Literacy Hubs created by Scholastic, the world’s largest publisher of children’s books, have opened at the Hillside Township Municipal Building lobby, the Hillside Community Center, and Lord’s Bagels, a local business. The hubs offer a selection of culturally-diverse books for all ages, from young children to young adults, to read on site or take home and return. 

After reading each book, students can obtain a QR code where they answer questions about the book, earning vouchers for prizes such as treats from Wendy’s or 7-Eleven.

Other Hillside hubs will be at the First Baptist Church and M&M Pizza.The initiative also includes a “Read Along” video with the mayor reading a story for children to follow along. 

Sancha K. Gray, Ed.D., senior vice president for EEI at Kean, said the literacy hubs will help transform the Township of Hillside around literacy by providing books that reflect children’s lives.

“Hillside children will be able to find culturally appropriate books easily available to them in their community, by stopping at places they may normally go,” Gray said. “At the literacy hubs, they will find books that are inspiring and interesting to read, enjoy and share with their parents or younger siblings. We want students to see themselves reflected in stories, and make books a regular part of their daily lives.”

Hillside Public School District Superintendent Erskine R. Glover said one of the most impactful gifts anyone can give a child “is the gift of learning the art and joy of reading.

“The ability to read is not a skill measured by a simple standard; reading is a learned skill that advances our thoughts and imaginations from dreams to reality,” he said. “The gift of reading expands one's opportunities to move within and beyond the margins of our communities that often limit our innovation and creativity.” 

At Lord’s Bagels on Broad Street, proprietor Carla Souza said young people stop in every day, especially on weekends. She said she’s thrilled to have the literacy hub that can “engage young customers in a whole new way.”

“We truly value the families we serve, and we are excited to have something to make their visits to Lord’s Bagels even more meaningful,” Souza said.

Hillside Community Center Director Al Hardy said the Center is excited about the initiative, too. 

“Our facility has been a central hub for Hillside youth and their families over the years, and this initiative will allow us to expand our current educational opportunities and increase out-of-school engagement,” Hardy said. “This is not only about enhancing literacy skills, but also about creating a hub for community connection and collaboration.”