By Bill Knief
“If you don’t know how to read, you only learn what someone tells you.”
That’s the attention grabber the American Library Association uses to underscore the importance of literacy for individuals, and, by extension, for communities and for society as a whole.
Thomas Jefferson and quite a few others over the centuries have taken this self-evident principle a step farther, making it a fundamental component within the DNA of the body politic by maintaining that an informed electorate is nothing less than the cornerstone of a free society.
Nevertheless, there are those who would disagree. New Mexico’s own Secretary of Higher Education Jose Garcia claims that, although the state’s emphasis on affordable, accessible two-year community colleges is nice, “We can no longer afford it.” Many would defund developmental courses and dual credit programs in order to channel the savings to only those students who, because of social position or access to resources, are most likely to succeed. The rest simply get left behind. Presidential candidates brag that they will eliminate the Department of Education on their first day in office, and when President Obama began an all out push to extend the low interest rate on federal student loans last week, the New York Times reported that it is, “likely to become a heated battle along party lines.”
Back in the real world, on April 30 libraries across the country will be participating in a national day of recognition designed to promote literacy called “El Día de Los Niños/EnricEl Día de los Libros.
“Libraries and librarians will be inviting students and families in to celebrate and talk about childhood literacy,” according to Enrico Trujillo, media specialist at the UNM-Taos Library. “It involves reading to children and integrating reading with cultural heritage, and recognizing reading across cultures. This is the sixth year we have participated in this, and we do it because the idea of literacy is part of our mission.”
“Every year we mix it up a little differently,” added head librarian Kathleen Knoth. “We’ve done everything from puppet shows and Skype projects to art murals and an Aikido demonstration. This year we are including students from the high school drama class. One student, Sarah Livingston, wrote a play that they will perform at the new Enos Garcia Elementary School Library. We’ll be there from 1 p.m. to 2:15 Monday, April 30 and Mayor Darren Cordova will deliver a proclamation making April 30 “El Día de Los Niños/El Día de Los Libros” day in Taos. The idea is to go beyond our little program and extend it across the community to involve more families and care givers to support our children in literacy.”
Assistant librarian Ana Pacheco said that this will be the inaugural use of the storytelling space in the library. “Service learning and experiential learning are the ways we reach out. And when older students reach out to the younger ones and help them to tell their stories, it’s really important and effective.”
Trujillo added, “At the core of what we do is critical thinking: the ability to make life decisions based on the information at hand. Recently we have established the HELP center on Klauer Campus to make it easier for college students to access information—a place they can go to find their own resources, whether that means books, interactive internet-based programs or other audio-visual aids.”
“Just think of the UNM-Taos Library and the HELP Center as home base,” Knoth concluded. “It’s where you go to handle certain situations and navigate to where you want to go next.”
And speaking of where you want to go next, here are a couple of suggestions: class schedules are out and you can either go online at taos.unm.edu or stop by the enrollment office in Pueblo Hall on the Klauer campus to register for summer and fall semesters. Also, don’t forget to come by the courtyard between Bataan Hall and the convention center on Civic Plaza Drive at 7 p.m. May 11. The Mayor has proclaimed it Jim Gilroy Day in Taos, honoring our dean, respected colleague, educator and friend Jim Gilroy in his well-deserved retirement. It’s our chance to say thanks to a truly extraordinary man.