Legal Aid Society Announces “Let Them Read” - a Campaign to Empower Young New Yorkers With Books at Local Courts 

In Collaboration With Penguin Random House, Initiative Will First Pilot in Brooklyn With Goal of Expanding Citywide

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The Legal Aid Society announced today a new campaign with the support of book publisher Penguin Random House today. Let Them Read will bring books into the courtroom for young New Yorkers to read while they wait for their cases to be called.

For decades, courts in New York City have arbitrarily prohibited local residents from reading books in court – even as they languish long hours to have their case heard before a judge. Now, Legal Aid clients and others in Brooklyn’s Adolescent and Young Adult Diversion (APY2) court will have direct access to books from a courtroom bookshelf, and can keep the books if they want. The current bookshelf holds close to 200 books; and hundreds have already been taken home by Legal Aid clients and others.

Brooklyn APY court serves clients age 16-24, and was created to offer alternatives to incarceration so as to limit future contact with the criminal justice system. Many clients must miss school to appear in this part during the week. This might be the only opportunity they get to read.

Some of the books already provided by Penguin Random House include:

Over the course of two years to solidify this pilot and bring it to fruition, The Legal Aid Society worked closely with Judge Craig Walker - former presiding Judge of APY - the Office of Court Administration, and others.

“Giving someone a book is giving them the opportunity to learn something new. At any age, but especially during your adolescence, that knowledge has the power to change what you believe is possible not just for yourself, but also for the world to which you are connected. For our clients, this has a unique significance,” said Noor Ahmad, Staff Attorney the Brooklyn Trial Office at The Legal Aid Society. “We are excited to partner with Penguin Random House on this important pilot that will help to empower our young clients, and we look forward to the day when bookshelves are in every court part across New York City.”

Madeline McIntosh, Chief Executive Officer, Penguin Random House U.S., said, “We at Penguin Random House are so pleased to support the vital work of the Legal Aid Society and this very important pilot. We look forward to providing LAS with books for the collection at Brooklyn’s Youth Court and other libraries, and to connecting the young people they represent with books that we hope will inform, entertain and inspire.”

“What better way to help stimulate a mind in a positive way than to provide a book. It may seem like a small and meaningless gesture to some, but if we want these young people to aspire to do better, we need to provide them with the right tools in order for them to achieve their goals. That starts right there, in the Courtroom. I only hope that this can be a model that other courtrooms might start using in the future,” said Hon. Craig S. Walker, Presiding Judge of the Criminal Term Youth Part, Kings County Supreme Court.