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Room to read for SFPS students

December 16, 2018

The issue of literacy in Santa Fe is one of critical importance, and there is reason to be optimistic. The reading proficiency rate is up 0.7 percent from 2017, and there are a myriad of efforts to thank for this improvement.

While Santa Fe residents may be generally aware of the struggling child literacy levels in our city, taking a hard look at the numbers is quite sobering. According to a report from the Public Education Department and Santa Fe Public Schools, the district’s reading proficiency rate is at 29 percent. This statistic is slightly lower than the New Mexico average, 31.1 percent, and several percentage points lower than the national average, 35 percent proficiency, as reported by Kids Count. Reading proficiency is commonly measured in the fourth grade, which is the point at which students are no longer expected to learn to read but rather read to learn. In other words, from fourth grade onward, students must have the ability to read for information to keep up with most subject areas.

Opportunity Santa Fe Birth to Career, a collective impact initiative supported by the Santa Fe Community Foundation, has been one of the many initiatives that has faced the issue of youth literacy in our city head on. Opportunity Santa Fe believes that making significant strides in education is not simply the responsibility of the public schools, but rather an effort that must be embraced by our whole community. By aligning the efforts of SFPS, the city of Santa Fe and local nonprofit agencies, Opportunity Santa Fe is working to reduce repetition and increase the effectiveness of literacy work being implemented across Santa Fe.

In September, Opportunity Santa Fe formed an unlikely partnership to support literacy. Rooted in a firm commitment to community engagement and support, Rosewood Hotel’s Inn of the Anasazi reached out to Opportunity Santa Fe with a desire to support public school students during National Literacy Month. They coined the event, “Room to Read.”

On Sept. 28, three classes of Sweeney Elementary School third-graders took a field trip to the Inn of the Anasazi’s cozy reading room. There, local storyteller Joe Hayes, relayed stories in both English and Spanish to the captivated young audience. Following storytime, students enjoyed cookies and hot chocolate while Managing Director Gabor L. Vida spoke on the importance of stories, books and reading. The morning left students and teachers grateful for the unique experience and the inn staff satisfied by the positive community impact they were able to have in just a few short hours. Room to Read showed students that it is not only parents and schools who value reading education, it’s our local businesses, too.

The inn didn’t stop there. In the weeks following the Room to Read event, Inn of the Anasazi staff collected five boxes of children and young adult books to be donated to Opportunity Santa Fe’s ongoing efforts to support youth literacy in the city through periodic free book giveaways.

There is no single easy solution to improving literacy rates. However, Opportunity Santa Fe believes that when businesses in the downtown business sector and other unlikely partners step up to help support ongoing efforts to improve youth literacy, a significant impact is possible. It is incumbent upon us as a community to work collaboratively and seek out partnerships, sometimes unexpected ones, to better support the education of our kids.

Dana Greenblatt is an AmeriCorps VISTA supporting Opportunity Santa Fe.

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