The gift of reading is an investment in our future.

When you mark your first and sixth birthdays at the same time there are lots of reasons to celebrate. For starters, the Children’s Reading Alliance became an independent 501 (c)3 one year ago.  This reality was the dream of a grassroots citizen initiative just six years ago. We started with a vision and the slogan “Read with a Child Every Day”. In the beginning, we were warned that the life expectancy of a new non-profit like ours was four years.

In our first six years, we have brought children’s books to thousands of families. From the original six members, our base has grown to include a cadre of over fifty volunteers and more than twenty educational organizations and local business partners.

Our vision has grown into five vibrant programs.

First Teacher/Primer Maestro serves families of children between the ages of three and five by empowering parents with information and materials that will help prepare their children to succeed in school.

Book Buddies /Books for You distributes children’s literature and provides story-time opportunities during the summer when struggling readers are most vulnerable to suffer “Summer Slide”, a loss of academic gains made during the school year.

Reading Buddies are volunteers who mentor struggling beginning readers with regularly scheduled one-on-one reading sessions at school.

Dolly Parton Imagination Library mails books every month to the homes of children from birth until five years old.

Babies and Books partners with maternity caregivers to educate new moms that it is never too early to start a read-aloud habit with your baby.

We celebrate our successes as we face an enormous challenge. Las Cruces Public Schools has asked us to provide 8800 books to children attending K3+ classes (summer school) this summer. In the past we have employed resources from the US Congress through their Innovations in Literacy grants. This year, that option is not available to us and we face a $30,000 shortfall in our summer book programs.

There are many reasons why a summer reading program must exist and thrive.

Reading skill losses during the summer are cumulative, creating a wider gap between more and less proficient readers. By the time a struggling reader reaches middle school, summer reading loss   accounts for a two-year lag in achievement. Children who don’t read on grade level by third grade are less likely to graduate from high school.

Summer Slide is responsible for as much as 85% of the reading gap between lower income students and their middle income peers. Teachers typically spend 4 – 6 weeks re-teaching material children have forgotten over the summer.

Reading during the summer is the change agent. Regardless of ethnicity, socio economic level, or previous achievement, children who read four or more books over the summer do better on reading comprehension tests in the fall than their peers who read one or no books during the summer.

Data shows that reading as a leisure activity is the best predictor of comprehension, vocabulary and reading speed.

Together we can make this happen. Already, El Paso Electric and the Las Cruces Bulletin have come forward. Today, I am appealing to you to join our alliance, become a contributing member, and a champion of kids in your neighborhood.

This is your Invitation to a virtual birthday party. A celebration with eyes on the future, a lick and a prayer for the day when our children don’t rank last in childhood well-being or achievement; a time when businesses locate here because of our well-educated work force.  Join us in giving the gift of books that children actually read. Books that children select for themselves are loved and become the core of a child’s home library. Our goal is to distribute 8800 books this summer.

The average retail price for a new children’s book is seven dollars. Because CRA is a non-profit, our cost for good quality children’s literature is five dollars or less. A twenty dollar donation buys at least four books. Every one hundred dollars donated will purchase a minimum of 25 books.

Join our Alliance for children’s literacy today with the gift of reading for a child near you. Go to our website to contribute on line or mail a check to Children’s Reading Alliance, 3880 Foothills Road, Suite A, Las Cruces 88011. To find out how your organization/business can become a proud supporter please call us at 575 522 3713. All money raised will be spent on books and delivered by volunteers.