STEM to Read is an early literacy initiative. Courtesy photo
STEM to Read is an early literacy initiative from the New Mexico State Library (NMSL) through funding received from the New Mexico Library Foundation.
The project kicked off in New Mexico with professional development for library and museum staff, led by a national leader in early literacy, Saroj Ghoting.
Librarians from Embudo Valley Library, program coordinators from the Pajairto Environmental Education Center and the Bradbury Science Museum, among others throughout the state, attended this training. The training focused on STEM (science, technology, engineering, math) concepts through literacy to early learners (ages 0-5 years).
Library and museum staff were trained on concepts of bringing STEM to story times and programming, modeling for parents on turning any story or occasion into a teachable moment for science, math and reading, developing hands-on play-and-learn environments that engage the littlest learners, fostering library/museum partnerships, and how resources at one can complement the programming at the other.
STEM to Read is based on the principles of “Every Child Ready to Read,” where teaching early literacy skills through singing, talking, reading, writing, and playing develops a strong foundation for later reading success.
A key component to any early literacy program is also to help children develop emotional literacy skills like self- regulation, turn taking, and the ability to listen and follow directions.
This program meets the community need of teaching early literacy skills in a fun and informative environment. According to the Annie E. Casey Foundation’s 2013 Kids Count data book, “More than 60 percent of our (New Mexico) children are not attending pre-school and 22 percent of our children live in families where the head of household lacks a high school diploma.”
Early literacy is the logical place to start in order to reverse the poverty and education demographics of Rio Arriba County.
Some of the other pieces of the program include more outreach to boost attendance at story time and youth programs within the libraries, Staff training related to early literacy programs through New Mexico State Library and NMLF implementation of “activity backpacks”. Twenty or more book and activity backpacks created, catalogued and trailed to circulate to patrons as a new educational component through which families can learn and play at home, and museum partnerships where practical in the youth literacy programming.
United Way of Northern New Mexico (UWNNM), in an effort to bring STEM learning to the children and families in Northern Mexico, has partnered with these organizations to implement the program in four of the eight libraries Rio Arriba County.
UWNNM Funds will be leveraged with funding from the NM State Library and NMLF in hopes to expand throughout Los Alamos and Rio Arriba County in the future. The STEM to Read program will be piloted through the four non-profit libraries that make up the RAIL (Rio Arriba Independent Libraries): Embudo Valley Library, El Rito Public Library, Truchas Public Library and Pueblo de Abiqui Library.
They are all located in unincorporated villages, and as such, are not tax payer funded libraries. They raise funds for their budgets from foundations and local donors annually. Each serves distinct geographic areas in the county and provides service without duplication. They serve small rural villages where the library acts as the community anchor institution, providing public library service and educational support for area residents.
Rio Arriba County is home to eight libraries providing services to County residents. There are two municipal tax-payer funded public libraries, two tribal libraries and the four RAIL libraries.