Reading Solution: August 2014
Does the language matter? Anyone who reads this column regularly knows that the importance of talking to and sharing books with young children is a recurring theme. Parents who...
Readers are Generous People
In 2017 we delivered 25,000 books to children. For many of the children, these are the very first books in their homes. Not a bad way for seventy volunteers to celebrate CRA’s second birthday!
The great part is that all of this activity started simply. Six years ago a small group of Las Crucens brainstormed ideas for improving the low literacy rate in our area. They realized that a large scale change in reading success rates would require more approaches than schools and public policy could offer. Each of those seven individuals was determined to do something. Sensitive to the financial challenges faced by many families in our area, one of their ideas was to flood the environment with good children’s literature to create a culture of reading and a love of books at an early age.
On one of their first forays into public places, Jan Reed brought books to a children’s summer lunch program in Butterfield Park. The kids were skeptical when she invited them to look through her box of books and take one to keep. With some encouragement the children became curious and began choosing books; but there was a hold-out. One boy just couldn’t be coaxed to even take a look because “I don’t like books.”
That comment made a big impression and got us wondering about the negative experiences he must have had to bring him to such a stark conclusion so early in life. Many conversations since then continue to reveal how much early family experiences shape our values and fuel or extinguish a predisposition to want to read.
One child’s innocent remark, “I don’t like books,” led to experiments with ways to encourage parents to read to their children from the very beginning of their lives. In our community, the unique challenges of reaching the most parents of preschoolers requires a bilingual program with lots of flexibility to adjust to a variety of families’ needs. Since these first attempts in 2014, First Teacher/Primer Maestro classes have reached about 1,000 families throughout Doña Ana County. At first it wasn’t easy to attract parents to our classes but each year the demand grows and we are challenged to find new ways to fund this exciting program. Last year alone 14,000 books, learning tools and information about child development went to families of preschoolers as part of the First Teacher/Primer Maestro program thanks to our partners: the Stocker Family Foundation, United Way of the Southwest, The Daniels Fund, New Mexico Children’s Foundation, Community Foundation of Southern New Mexico, Community Action Agency of Southern New Mexico, Ngage New Mexico, and the Southwest New Mexico Council of Governments.
Another 9,000 books went to beginning readers during the summer. A team of Summer Book Buddies provide books to LCPS K3+ students, libraries in Hatch, Sunland Park, Anthony and Chaparral to keep kids reading for fun during the summer. Another twenty children’s service providers count on us for books as well.
During the school year twenty-five volunteer Reading Buddies make weekly visits to elementary schools to mentor beginning readers. Teachers identify second graders who would benefit from one-on-one reading experiences as they struggle to reach grade level skills.
Children’s Reading Alliance is providing change through person to person connections. As opportunities to improve educational outcomes increase, so do the challenges of our ever growing programs. CRA needs you to join this vibrant conversation. Express your determination to change educational outcomes for our children through your dollars, your time, and your expertise.
You can be part of this grassroots revolution. In addition to the volunteers who make our programs work, we need leaders who can offer services to a growing non-profit enterprise. People with organizational skills, experience in the areas of public resources, grants and funding, marketing, policies and procedures, legal issues, evaluation, media, recruitment, writing and public speaking are needed to create a bright future for all of us.