By Casey Peacock: PNT Staff Writer
Literacy Day was celebrated Friday as volunteers from the Portales Altrusa Club and Eastern New Mexico University’s Zia basketball team visited Portales schools and childcare centers to read to the students.
According to a press release from the New Mexico Coalition for Literacy, the day has been set aside since 1967, to focus attention and efforts on improving the literacy skills of adults and children worldwide.
Low literacy in New Mexico is a persistent problem, said the press release. Information from the group’s Web site www.nmcl.org states that 21 percent of adults, age 25 and older read at a fifth grade level and below, while 44 percent of New Mexicans read at the sixth grade level and below.
“One of our main objectives is to promote literacy,” said Beverly Bennett, president of the Portales Altrusa Club.
According to Bennett the club has participated in Literacy day activities for several years. The club also founded the literacy program at the Portales Public Library, said Bennett. After the program was granted federal funding, the club was able to refocus its interests on other community projects, Bennett said.
“It’s fun, it’s a lot of fun. This is my first year,” said volunteer reader Carol McDowell.
As students from Steiner Elementary gathered around McDowell, she read to them from a book that was full of rhymes that she read to the tunes of “Take me out to the Ball Park,” “I’m a Little Teapot,” and others.
The class answered with a resounding “yes” when asked if they liked the story that had been read to them.
At James Elementary, Zia basketball player Stephanie Bailey read to the kids and shared stories from her days in grade school.
“I remember being in elementary and someone big came into read.” I felt it was really awesome that they would come in and read to us,” Bailey said.
James Elementary students Shaun Miller and Tiffani Milner both said they felt good about being able to read and that it would help them later in life, as they grew older.
“The kids love having guest readers. It shows the kids there are other people excited about their learning. It affects every part of their lives from this point on, education, safety and even fun,” said Tina Miller, James Elementary school librarian.