Read to me! project 

Editor: 

When I retired from the U.S. Department of Defense Schools in 2006 and settled in New Mexico, I was horrified to hear about the low test scores in this state. I had just come from a school system that has the highest scores in the country.   

After a few years of traveling with my new husband, I became determined to get involved in education once more. After all, I had spent 42 years educating young people, and I just couldn’t shake the feeling that I could do still more for the young folks in this state.  

Then, the pandemic came along, and we were all stuck in a world that just seemed to stop moving. Being ultra-cautious, because of some prior health problems, I wanted to edge into some type of program that would allow me to help, yet to remain healthy.   

Just about a year ago, my husband and I discovered “Read to Me!” We wanted to work with one school in order to “test the waters.” That school was La Promesa Elementary School in Veguita.  

That decision turned out to be one of the best decisions we could have made. We were hooked! We knew we could affect more children if they only had more books accessible to them. So, Rick and I decided we were going to bring books down to each of the elementary schools in Valencia County. Those books are being furnished to us by Read to Me!  

The books are acquired by donations from folks in Albuquerque. They are taken to a warehouse and cleaned by an army of volunteers, people who wipe them clean and toss out ones that are torn or badly written in or losing their covers. They come out of the cleaning process looking nearly new.  

Because there is no financial outlay to acquire the books, there is no charge to us and also no charge to the students in the schools receiving them. The students are instructed to take those books home and keep them on their shelves in order to create home libraries. It’s a win-win all the way around for the children!  

More books means more reading, which means better test scores and more book lovers.  

It all sounds pretty simple and easy, but there is an immense amount of time and energy that goes into getting all these books from the shelves in the book warehouse in Albuquerque into the hands of the kids in Valencia County.  

My husband and I have discovered that going out into the county and talking face-to-face with folks in various groups is the best way to gain your support. One meeting with the Rotary Club in Los Lunas netted us a great support group from the district attorney’s office in Belen. With their help, we have managed to deliver books to all 17 of the elementary schools in the Los Lunas and Belen school districts. We have accomplished our initial goal.  

You might wonder why we can’t stop now. Things keep popping up that would make our attempt to create better readers more meaningful and, hopefully, more far-reaching.  

What about our Spanish-speaking students? For every 300 or 400 books we bring from Albuquerque, we normally only have a small handful of Spanish or bilingual books. We need to have some money to buy those types of books for our children who need them.  

What about volunteers who have the time and interest to go into the schools to help the students with their reading? Are those volunteers going to be required to be fingerprinted and have background checks? If so, will they be able to afford the $54 fee that goes along with those requirements?  

One gentleman has already donated that sum of money to help pay for someone, a person who could not otherwise be able to volunteer, to be approved to work with our children. Could you pay for one or more of these interested folks to be tested?  

There have been quite a few members of our community who have said they’d like to go into the schools and read to the children. Let’s don’t restrict them! If they are willing to read — whether only once, once a week or once a month — just the fact that they want to help our youth means that they care. So let’s support those who want to help our children in New Mexico.   

How much do you care? Would you or your organization be willing to adopt a school and work closely with that school to create better readers? We would welcome you to do so! 

Thank you for caring enough to support our attempts to improve literacy in Valencia County!  

Betty and Rick Follett 

Los Lunas 

(Betty Follett teacher/librarian) and husband, Rick (Coast Guard retiree), have joined with Read to Me! in an effort to encourage children in Valencia County to love reading. You can reach Betty and Rick Follett by emailing [email protected] or call 505-565-2451.) 

 

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The Valencia County News-Bulletin is a locally owned and operated community newspaper, dedicated to serving Valencia County since 1910 through the highest journalistic and professional business standards. The VCNB is published weekly on Thursdays, including holidays both in print and online.