NEWARK, NJ — Students at People's Preparatory Charter School are scheduled to receive free book downloads from Newark-based audiobook service, Audible, to help increase reading comprehension. 

The partnership provides students with additional resources planned to improve learning and increase their reading skills while city schools operate remotely. However, school officials do intend to continue the program even after students are back in physical classrooms.

Since the pandemic closed Newark schools citywide last March, People's Prep Principal Keith Robinson told TAPinto Newark that the goal has been to serve students' academic needs and transition their opportunities to a virtual setting. The partnership with Audible, he said, will help the school to meet its goal. 

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"We've been very fortunate to have local partnerships with organizations like Audible," Robinson said. "They have been instrumental in allowing us to offer our students virtual programming that fosters a love of reading, supports their academic endeavors and gives them the opportunity to network with a diverse group of professionals."

More than 700 free downloads from Audible will help contribute to a monthly reading program. Each month, Audible volunteers and students meet for the Listening Book Club, where participants select, listen and engage in a discussion about an audiobook.

The first Listening Club session was held in early February with more than 30 participants including 20 Audible employees.

The club is open to Audible employees nationwide and is capped at 20 volunteers per month, while
People’s Prep students grades 9 to 12 are invited to participate as a voluntary extracurricular activity.

Club organizers have also been intentional about selecting texts that give voice to Black and LGBTQ perspectives, according to school officials. 

By offering a diverse selection of themes and topics for students through the book club, People's Prep Reading Coordinator Rosiris Mendoza explained that the program can help shape each student's worldview. 

"The books we pick each month increase visibility and advocate for underrepresented groups," Mendoza said. "The book club presents a chance for students to have a space to freely use their voice and share their experiences and opinions." 

Analee Campbell, Audible’s Community Service Manager, said sees the program as a great way for students and volunteers to connect and learn from one another.

“Our employees love working with students in Newark, and we’re excited for the opportunity to share our stories in a time where connection is needed more than ever," Campbell said.