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To our readers: News organizations tackle literacy crisis in New Mexico

ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. — This weekend, the Albuquerque Journal, in partnership with KOAT-TV and KKOB News Radio, will launch a yearlong, coordinated effort to explore the issues and seek potential solutions to New Mexico’s ongoing literacy crisis – the state ranks 49th in the country and has made no measurable progress in the last 20 years.

Through The Literacy Project, the three newsrooms and their producers, reporters and editors will publish and air in-depth stories and interviews to identify gaps, resources and opportunities to create positive, workable solutions.

“Literacy is one of the most crucial, liberating and illuminating tools a person can acquire,” says Albuquerque Journal Publisher William Lang. “The ability to read elevates an individual personally, economically and socially. Despite New Mexico’s devastatingly low literacy rates, we believe they can be improved with strategic effort – thus improving the lives of many New Mexicans.”

KOAT-TV President and General Manager Lori Waldon said of the partnership, “We are proud to unite in this powerful way to shine a light on a very critical issue. Literacy is the gateway to increasing educational opportunity for many New Mexicans. Literacy is empowering and it is transformative. It lifts children and adults out of poverty. And it’s an important building block to raising New Mexico’s level of education.”

Jeff Berry, Cumulus Radio Group regional manager, feels this multimedia, multiplatform approach is the perfect way to inspire tangible progress and improvements. “As news leaders, we know how to be catalysts for change. We know how to get the attention of government and industry. We know how to rally public opinion and support. We want to use our joint strength and training to serve the state in a way that can truly enhance and assist public and private educational efforts.”

Each organization has assigned some of their top reporters to this complex issue. KOAT-TV News Director Jess O’Neill is working with anchor Shelly Ribando; Assistant City Editor Mike Murphy and staff writer Rick Nathanson are spearheading the Journal’s coverage; and 96.3 News Radio KKOB Operations Manager Jared Hart has assigned Haylee Gonzales.

As we kicked off this effort, one fact became apparent: There is a multitude of private, nonprofit and government organizations and individuals who care deeply about this issue and who are already making a difference. We hope to share some of their stories, and make available a resource bank where the public can find the services that best fit their needs.

Whether a 6-year-old needs someone to read to them or a single mom who dropped out of school needs help deciphering job postings or a recent immigrant seeks to learn English – the challenges can be immense. But the single act of learning to read can change a life.

As KOAT’s Waldon said: “We … hope that ‘The Literacy Project’ will spark all New Mexicans to take action in their own communities. Raising our literacy level will lift our entire state.”

So please join us on our ride as we spotlight this critical issue. We welcome your feedback – whether it’s to tell us the story of your challenges or a story about a group with proven successes. Together, we can do this.