By Rorie Measure
President, Children’s Reading Alliance

We are changing the future one child, one book, one family at a time.

Marta, mother of three took the First Teacher/Primer Maestro class in Spanish. ‘‘That first day I felt hopeless. My two older boys were not interested in school and never brought home books to read. I didn’t know how to help. I can’t read. My friend took me to a Primer Maestro class at our community center.” There Marta saw a mom demonstrate how she “reads” to her child by pointing to the pictures and talking about them. Marta cried. She couldn’t read the words but she knew she could do that. During the next six weeks Marta and her neighbors shared ideas with each other as they learned how to play and read with their children to develop the habits and skills their kids would need when they started kindergarten.

Something surprising happened after Marta began “reading” to her little one each night. Her boys started reading the books too and soon were teaching Marta and their little sister to read… in both Spanish and English!

Reading connects us with each other, and gives us a window to imagine a better future for ourselves and our children. That seems like a given but for almost half of children in Dona Ana County achieving a useful level of literacy seems out of reach. We have an educational crisis to solve. The obstacles are not unsurmountable. Together we can transform education, equity, and the pleasure of lifelong learning.

At the beginning of second grade Shana wouldn’t sit still to read in class. Her teacher asked for a Reading Buddy. After meeting with her volunteer Buddy once a week, Shana finished the year with strong skills and became a class leader with lots of confidence.

During a summer reading event, Ian, a first grader, listened intently to a story about a dinosaur. He asked to borrow it and couldn’t believe it when the volunteer told him it was his to keep. The next week Ian returned and read his favorite parts to us.

CRA programs specifically meet the needs of our community. Our neighbor to neighbor teaching model is unique and reaches kids, moms, dads and grandmas. Our volunteer programs bolster the skills of struggling early readers and support educators as well as families.

Marta and her neighbors participated in the First Teacher/Primer Maestro program. These free classes were created locally by parents, a reading specialist, a librarian and a teacher of English as a second language. In six weeks participants create home libraries and learn how to be their child’s best teacher by establishing new reading habits at home.

Shana’s Reading Buddy is a volunteer who dedicates one hour a week to mentoring struggling beginning readers. Ian’s book was purchased with funds donated by Las Crucens like you. Together we are fighting illiteracy and equipping children and families with reading strategies that will last a lifetime. There is so much more to do. Become a part so everyone gets the opportunity to explore the past, embrace the present, and imagine the future.

Rorie Measure is curriculum developer, literacy coach and teacher trainer for the Children’s Reading Alliance.