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Mayor’s community op-ed: Reading, writing, arithmetic — and mindful breathing and plant-based foods

BY ERIC ADAMS | This week, our children headed back to school for the first day of the new school year. School supplies have been gathered, backpacks are being filled, and alarms are being set for the early mornings once again. Whether you’re new to New York City public schools or a returning student and family, there’s always going to be some amount of nervousness mixed in with the excitement.

Mayor Adams with a student speaker on the first day of school at P.S. 121, the Throop School, in the Bronx on Thurs., Sept. 7. (Michael Appleton/Mayoral Photography Office)

We want to reassure all our students that we have a great year planned ahead. We are making a historic shift in the way we teach our young people reading through NYC Reads — an initiative that brings proven, evidence-based English Language Arts curricula into classrooms. We will teach students how to decode words, so that even when the reading level becomes more challenging, they will have the skills and foundation to be able to sound out new words and understand new material. Reading is a fundamental skill — it is necessary academically, professionally and personally — and we will make sure that all of our students graduate as confident readers. In the end, this will lead to a brighter future for the entire city.

Young students did some coloring on the first day of school at P.S. 121, the Throop School. (Michael Appleton/Mayoral Photography Office)

Being able to read confidently is personal to me. I have dyslexia, and even today, when I enter a classroom as mayor, I remember how I was laughed at and humiliated for not being able to read properly as a student. Not long ago, when a young student heard that I had dyslexia, he came to visit me at City Hall. He has benefitted tremendously from the help he received through our programs, and now he is recommending books to his friends, and his nickname is “College.” We want all our students to benefit the way this young man did. We want college to be a goal for all our children. Our screenings for dyslexia and other learning disabilities will ensure that no young person suffers unnecessarily the way I did, and that all our students receive the support they need to fulfill their potential.

Mayor Adams visited a classroom on the first day of school at P.S. 121, the Throop School, in the Bronx on Thurs., Sept. 7. (Michael Appleton/Mayoral Photography Office)

But school is about more than just academics: It also involves learning social and emotional skills. At school, we learn how to make friends, manage our emotions, and grow as human beings. This school year, we will introduce our students to mindful breathing techniques. A few simple breathing exercises can help calm our minds, deal with stressful situations and improve focus. The techniques that our students will learn can be used anytime, anywhere and at any age. Mindful breathing is a lifelong lesson; I wish I had been taught it when I was in school, but now I practice it regularly. Just a few minutes a day makes a big difference.

Parents walked their children to school on the first day of classes at P.S. 121 in the Bronx. (Michael Appleton/Mayoral Photography Office)

We’re also improving the dining experience for our students, with more than 80 enhanced cafeterias that make socializing with friends easier and lunchtime more pleasant. We are offering more plant-based, as well as halal, meal options, so all our students can eat healthy and according to their culture and faith. New York City is a city for everyone — and our school cafeterias should reflect that.

These are just some of the initiatives that we have prepared for the upcoming year, and now we have a few requests of you and our students as well. Please attend your child’s parent-teacher meeting, or a P.T.A. meeting, ask your child’s teacher or the school’s parent coordinator questions, and try to join your children when they read or do their homework whenever possible. The more effort you put into learning about your child’s school experience, the more you and he or she will get out of it. But in the end, the final responsibility for learning and growing lies with our young people themselves.

The mayor also welcomed students on Rikers Island on the first day of school. (Michael Appleton/Mayoral Photography Office)

School is like life — but with constant guidance and guardrails. We want our young people to think critically, to ask questions, to become better human beings and citizens and, sometimes, even to learn how to fail. School is where you can raise your hand, take risks and try new things. School prepares our young people for the future. Welcome to the 2023-24 school year!

For more information, see

Adams is the 110th mayor of New York City.

One Comment

  1. Carol Yost Yost Carol Yost Yost September 14, 2023

    Thank you, Mayor Adams. Now, about those 15% budget cuts, which you blame Washington and Albany (and maybe, just maybe the immigrants) for, it just distresses me to see how enthusiastically you welcome new students to school while knowing that they won’t be able to get all that they deserve.

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