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Junior League supports children’s literacy with Little Black Dress Campaign

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The Junior League of Las Cruces (JLLC) is back again raising awareness about childhood literacy in New Mexico and raising funds to help combat those rates during their third annual Little Black Dress Initiative (LBDI) March 7-11, the league said in a news release.

“When only 24 percent of fourth-graders in New Mexico are proficient in reading, which is 10 percent lower than the national rate, something needs to be done,” JLLC President Tilli McCarthy Villalobos said. JLLC is partnering with local schools through its “A Book of My Own Initiative,” which works to get books into the hands and homes of the children of the community, the news release said.

JLLC’s goal is to give every student in Doña Ana County a book of his or her own.

The league said only one in 300 low-income students has a book of their own at home, so having a single book “can be life-changing.”

This initiative is funded through money raised through LBDI.

LBDI is a social media-driven awareness and online fundraising campaign during which community advocates wear the same black outfit for five days in a row with a button that says “Ask me about my dress” to spark conversations that allow advocates to share information with members of the community about the staggering statistics surrounding childhood literacy rates in New Mexico.

Last year, JLLC purchased a book for every single student at Central and Doña Ana elementary schools, giving out more than 600 books. This year, JLLC plans to give out nearly 1,000 books to every student at Central and Doña Ana elementaries and adding students at César Chávez Elementary.

“We have partnered with JLLC for three years now,” Central Elementary Principal Sabina Aguilar said in the news release. “Our main goal and objective is to encourage the love of reading by bringing books into the hands of our Central Elementary students. WOW! Students across our grade levels were so excited to get their books. Even when we have extra barriers put upon us with this pandemic, thanks to Junior League, we still manage to partner up for the love of reading.”

To donate or support A Book of My Own, visit jllc.org or JLLC’s Facebook page, or mail a check to Junior League of Las Cruces, P.O. Box 342, Las Cruces, N.M. 88004.