The Robert Bowne Foundation was established in 1968 by Edmund A. Stanley, Jr. and named in honor of Robert Bowne (1744-1818), founder of Bowne & Company.
At a time when there was very little organized concern for the plight of the poor, the sick and the uneducated in New York, Robert Bowne was a pioneer in his efforts on behalf of the disadvantaged. Through the Manumission Society, of which he was a founder, he sought to "exert all lawful means to ameliorate the sufferings" of the American slave and "ultimately to free him from bondage." He was a founder, as well, of the Society for Establishing a Free school in the City of New York, where scholars would be chosen on the basis of need, irrespective of "sect, creed, nationality, or name." He played an active role, too, in New York's first hospital, its first public health organization, and its first fire insurance company. When he died, one of his many good friends said of Robert Bowne, "His active mind, open purse, expanded heart, and willing feet knew no bounds." Through The Robert Bowne Foundation this tradition continues.
Supporting Literacy Development in Out-of-school-time Programs
Since 1987, the Robert Bowne Foundation has provided grants and technical assistance to New York City out-of-school-time programs that support the literacy development of children and youth. We define literacy as engagement in reading, writing, listening, and speaking in order to better understand oneself, others, and the world. Literacy takes many forms as it develops according to principles we believe to be fundamental:
- Literacy happens in community. The out-of-school-time programs we support are typically part of community-based organizations with deep roots in their neighborhoods. An out-of-school-time program can, for example, enable children of immigrants to explore the values and cultures of their home and adopted cultures through literature, song, dance, and art.
- Literacy develops through active engagement. The out-of-school-time programs we support get children to do things. Programs can get children who are stuck indoors and whose recess takes place on asphalt out into the open air of the Bronx River bank to row boats that they built or to conduct science experiments.
- Literacy is a means to self-determination. The out-of-school-time programs we support are youth-centered—youth provide leadership and take a central role in designing activities. Such programs can affirm adolescents’ selfhood and their solidarity with others through group sharing and service projects, or bring shy pre-adolescents out of their "shell" by performing in a play they composed with their peers.
- Literacy is a fundamental part of being human in 21st century America. The afterschool programs we support integrate literacy with a wide variety of kinds of activities, from sports to career exploration to the arts and beyond. Such integration not only engages children but also illustrates that literacy is not a set of isolated skills useful only in school.
An Emerging Field
Celebrating the fact that out-of-school-time education is emerging as a field in its own right, distinct from K-12 education, the Robert Bowne Foundation provides research grants and fellowships to out-of-school-time education providers and scholars. We also disseminate their work and that of others in our publications. We believe that all young people are entitled to quality programs that support their development—intellectual, artistic, physical, emotional, and spiritual—to its fullest potential. Though our research and advocacy efforts, we join the growing out-of-school-time community in helping to make that dream a reality.
The Robert Bowne Foundation seeks to have a long-term and substantial effect on the field of out-of-school education, and, in 2003, launched several new initiatives to accomplish this mission. Afterschool Matters is one of the initiatives, the goals of which are to:
- Generate and disseminate research about community-based organizations serving youth during the out-of-school hours;
- Build a network of scholars studying community based-organizations serving youth;
- Contribute to basic knowledge, and the improvement of practice and policy in the area of community-based youth programs.