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READING SOLUTION

Is reading becoming a luxury to be enjoyed only by the privileged?

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In my backyard, each spring, desert turtles emerge from their underground homes. They do so tentatively, staying close to home, gingerly venturing further each day; sometimes returning to their holes for a bit more sleep.
I feel a bit like that right now. This spring, armed with two vaccinations, I felt safe enough to cautiously return to limited socializing but wary enough to keep masks handy and ready to scurry back. New adventures in meeting with friends often involve enthusiastic chatter about the books we are reading. We have done a great deal of reading over the past year and a half, as I suspect you have as well.
Lots of people had more time to enjoy that luxury but not all. And the significance of who is not reading impacts the children who have suffered the most learning loss.

The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics 2019-20 Time Use Survey reveals adults increased their reading time to 34 minutes a day in 2020 from 28 minutes a day in 2019. This seems to reverse the consistent downward trend tracked by the American Academy of Arts and Sciences from 2003 through 2018. That’s good for kids. Children who consistently see significant adults in their lives reading tend to fare better in school. However, how the amount of time spent reading varies among economic and educational groups perhaps reveals a picture of who has the time, access and desire to read.
According to analysis reported by Thomas B. Edsall in his June 23  New York Times essay, time spent reading is distributed unevenly among economic and educational groups. For Americans without high school diplomas the daily average dropped 42 percent in 2020 to 11 minutes while people with bachelors’ degrees increased 24 percent to 52 minutes. The biggest boost in time reading occurs among people in the 50th to 75th percentile of weekly earnings -- a 131 percent increase to 37 minutes.
Time reading fell 27 percent in the lowest 25th percentile of earners. Respondents identifying as Hispanic and Latino Americans registered no change at 10 minutes.
This bodes ill for many children in Doña Ana County. School has been interrupted for a year, and has been  especially tough for children in homes without broadband. The Labor Department survey reports a slight decline in time spent reading and talking to/with children by adults caring for them as a primary activity, but for the people who do read and talk with their children there was a slight increase. Early interaction with language and books is an important predictor of school success.

Members of the Children’s Reading Alliance have not been idle. We created, Talking Stories/Cuentos que hablan so parents and their children could enjoy discussing classic children’s literature via Zoom. Thanks to the determination of volunteer Nancy Breard, public buses on the rural routes have continued to be stocked with books, and Jennifer Alvarado distributed books at events by every social service agency and non-profit she could.

The need is clear, and Las Crucens are energetic and generous. Your enthusiastic support and participation will get our programs up and running again. First Teacher/Primer Maestro programs for parents will start just as soon as group meetings are appropriate. We are reconnecting with our loyal and effective volunteer Reading Buddies to be ready when LCPS allows them back into schools. Talking Stories/Cuentos que hablan will be coming to community venues throughout DAC. Together we can make the difference. Get involved in person or with financial support. Donations can be made on our website www.childrensreadingalliance.org, or mailed to Children’s Reading Alliance 3880 Foothills Road, Las Cruces, NM 88011.

Rorie Measure is president emeritus of Children's Reading Alliance, a grassroots initiative to encourage family literacy throughout Doña Ana County. She is a reader, writer, teacher, reading specialist and literacy trainer who can be reached at rmeasure@gmail.com.

Rorie Measure