United Way to serve as literacy resource - Albuquerque Journal

United Way to serve as literacy resource

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While there are many adult and youth literacy programs operating throughout New Mexico, finding the one that matches the curriculum with the student appropriately may be difficult because the state currently lacks a comprehensive clearing house for such listings.

United Way of Central New Mexico is now stepping into that role. It will compile and regularly update a growing list of literacy resources and literacy volunteering opportunities for referrals on its 211 telephone helpline, as well as its website. Alternatively, you can call (505) 245-1735.

The announcement was made during a Zoom presentation at Wednesday’s Economic Forum meeting. Representatives of three media groups – the Albuquerque Journal, KOAT-TV and KKOB radio – that are partners in The Literary Project provided an update on their partnership to highlight the issue of low literacy in New Mexico.

Rodney Prunty, president and chief executive officer of United Way of Central New Mexico, said the 211 service is a free “information and referral line that provides connections to local services and resources,” including a host of government agencies and community-based organizations.

While the helpline has been around for about 20 years, the website is a more recent development. By going to www.uwcnm.org/211-helpline, users can click on the bar labeled “search 211 Helpline database” and, from there, click on the boxes of various services, which now include “Literacy Resources” and “Literacy Volunteering.”

The literacy component is a work in progress, and anyone who wants to add programs and other literacy-related resources to the database can call the 211 Helpline and provide that information to the community resource specialists who field the phone calls; or they can email the information to hannah.eisenberg@uwcnm.org.

The Literacy Project grew out of conversations begun last March, when representatives of the Journal, KOAT and KKOB began talking about the abysmally low literacy levels among children and adults in New Mexico, and how a concerted effort on their respective media platforms could highlight the problem, seek solutions and possibly move the needle.

The presentations reiterated the dismal stats: New Mexico ranks 49th in the nation in literacy and has made no significant progress in 20 years; nearly a third of New Mexico adults read at the level of a child age 5-7; three-quarters of fourth graders do not read at grade level; those fourth graders are four times more likely to later become high school dropouts; high school dropouts are more likely to become involved with the criminal justice system; and, nationwide, 75% of incarcerated people have low literacy levels.

Literacy “carries over into major issues and challenges our state faces – education, poverty, child well-being, crime, drug addiction,” Journal editor Karen Moses said. “If we can move the needle on literacy, just think what we could do with all of these other issues.”

Lori Waldon, president and general manager of KOAT-TV, credited the partnership with spreading the word about the need for volunteers to serve as tutors and the importance of parents reading to their children.

“The focus of our stories at KOAT is threefold,” she said. “First, to shine a light on the problem here in New Mexico; second, to highlight the impact that the lack of literacy has on the folks here in New Mexico; and, third, to tell the stories of the people who have the courage to ask for help, and those who are helping them.”

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