Libraries can play a critical role in early childhood reading habits. Many public libraries offer baby and preschool story times and most libraries offer a collection of books for toddlers and early readers. Likewise, most elementary schools include a library or media center that is staffed by experienced educators versed in early childhood literacy. However, libraries and public schools rarely receive adequate funding to implement all of the reading programs that could help students in the community. In recognition of this funding gap and the importance of literacy on the future of New Mexico's children, Governor Susana Martinez proposes to increase the funding to the "New Mexico Reads to Lead" literacy initiative in her upcoming FY14 budget proposal.
The "New Mexico Reads to Lead" initiative began during the 2012-2013 school year the Governor's current proposal is to increase the funding for the 2013-2014 school year to $13.5 million in order to compensate for the increased demand for the program. According to the Literacy New Mexico website,
New Mexico's early reading initiative, New Mexico Reads to Lead!, provides an aligned approach for districts and schools to ensure that children can read by the end of third grade—giving them essential skills for future career and college success. The New Mexico Reads to Lead! Initiative funds a reading K–3 Formative Assessment System provided to districts at no cost. It also provides regional and district reading coaches, supports for intervention, and professional development for parents, teachers, reading coaches, and administrators.
The Literacy New Mexico website also provides tools for parents and educators to encourage early readers, as well as recommended reading lists. The New Mexico Public Education Department hosted a webinar in May 2012 to present opportunities to educators under the initiative to develop reading plans and attend professional development seminars.
Last school year alone, 46 reading coaches were hired statewide to assist educators. A press release from the Governor's office details where the $13.5 million in funding will be used for the upcoming school year.
- $9.5 million for reading coaches and interventions for struggling students.
- $3 million for common formative assessments to identify struggling readers. These assessments would be available to over 106,000 students statewide who are in Kindergarten through 3rd grade.
- $1 million for professional development for teachers, coaches, and administrators on how to intervene with struggling readers.
Governor Susana Martinez is quoted in the press release from her office as saying,
“The 'New Mexico Reads to Lead' program is all about finding struggling students in kindergarten through the 3rd grade and focusing intently on bringing their reading skills up to speed. When a child can read, they can learn anything their heart desires, and it's clear that they're more likely to graduate from high school and have a successful career.”
Educators and library staff have long recognized the funding gap between what is available and what is needed to meet the need of struggling students. The additional funding proposed by the Governor is a step in the right direction to address early literacy in New Mexico.
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