by Joshua Kellogg, Farmington Daily News

FARMINGTON — Libraries in Aztec, Bloomfield and Farmington, along with those throughout the rest of the state, are sponsoring summer reading challenges to engage students in activities and improve their reading skills.

Karen McPheeters, director of the Farmington Public Library, said libraries help carry the figurative baton from schools during the summer months, helping students maintain or improve their reading proficiency levels. She said ensuring that students are proficient in reading is important to improving a community.

“If you can increase the literacy level of the community, keep kids during the summer engaged and moving forward in their learning, your community is going to be better off in the long run,” McPheeters said.

Efforts to engage young children to read during the summer could help improve the extremely low reading proficiency rate for fourth-grade students in San Juan County and New Mexico, McPheeters said.

According to the 2015 New Mexico Kids Count report released by the nonprofit New Mexico Voices for Children in January, 24 percent of fourth-grade students statewide met or exceeded expectations on the English language arts portion of the Partnership for Assessment of Readiness for College and Careers (PARCC) for the 2014-2015 school year.

Three county school districts scored below the state average as 28 percent of fourth-grade students in the Farmington Municipal School District met or exceeded expectations.

Only 10 percent of fourth-graders in the Bloomfield School District, 17 percent in the Central Consolidated School District and 20 percent in the Aztec Municipal School District met or exceed expectations.

The report states the rates were significantly lower for the 2014-2015 school year because it was the first year for the PARCC exam to be administered.

The theme for this year’s summer reading program in Farmington is #ReadFarmington. The program registered 7,036 children for last year’s program, and about 47,000 books were read, making it one of the largest programs in the state, McPheeters said.

Daily activities are scheduled each weekday starting on Monday, June 6, for children, teens and families, with special workshops scheduled in June and July.

The New Mexico True Summer Reading Challenge is underway for the fourth year and is offering a number of prizes for children ages 5 to 12 through July 31.

Christopher Ruszkowski, deputy secretary for the New Mexico Public Education Department, said in a phone interview the program helps students stay engaged to avoid the “summer slide” by encouraging sustained learning during the summer break.

“We’re hoping the students have a lot of fun,” Ruszkowski said.

Children are required to read and log 12 books and write a short essay about why they love New Mexico to qualify for a range of prizes, Ruszkowski said. The prizes include an all-expenses-paid trip to the Animal Kingdom park at Walt Disney World in Orlando, Fla., and a balloon ride with Gov. Susana Martinez.

While Farmington hosts its own program, the Aztec and Bloomfield public libraries are partnering with the New Mexico Library Association to host their summer reading programs.

The Aztec library will host a launch party at 10 a.m. Friday, June 3 for the summer reading program, Program Director Angela Watkins said.

Programs for teens are scheduled for Tuesdays, with children and toddler through pre-kindergarten programs scheduled on Thursdays.

In Bloomfield, children who read and log 15 books and attend three events can earn a tote bag, Library Clerk Kate McAlexander said. Adults can also earn a tote bag by reading and logging six books.

Registration for the summer reading challenge will take place on Tuesday and Wednesday.

Joshua Kellogg covers education for The Daily Times. He can be reached at 505-564-4627.

More information

Information on the summer reading challenges and registration can be found at:
Aztec Public Library: visit or call 505-334-7657.
Bloomfield Public Library: Call 505-632-8315.
Farmington Public Library: Visit or call 505-599-1270.

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