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LITTLE BLACK DRESS INITIATIVE

‘Little Black Dress Initiative’ to aid child literacy

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The Children’s Reading Alliance and the Junior League of Las Cruces have joined forces to increase public awareness about the importance of reading to children and encouraging children to read. 

Tilli Villalobos has announced a “Little Black Dress Initiative” Feb. 17-22, during which Junior League member participants will each wear a little black dress every day for a week “to raise awareness about the staggering statistics surrounding childhood literacy in our community and to raise funds to change these statistics through our book ownership program.”

Along with wearing a little black dress, Villalobos said each participant will also wear a button that says, “Ask me about my Little Black Dress,” thereby opening the opportunity for participants to engage in dialogue about the disparities among at-risk youth and reading. 

“This is an excellent start to raise both awareness and funds to assure we are building good readers in Doña Ana Country,” said Children’s Reading Alliance Executive Director Audrey Hartley, noting that the Kids Count Report of 2019 by the Annie E. Casey Foundation ranks New Mexico last in the nation for childhood well-being, as well as education. 

In Doña Ana County, Hartley said, 40 percent of children live in poverty, and 65 percent of three- and four-year olds-have no form of preschool experience. Up to 75 percent of third-grade students cannot read at grade level, which makes them four times less likely to graduate from high school, she said. 

“The Children’s Reading Alliance aims to combat these challenges by helping families to get their young children prepared to come to school to learn,” Hartley said. “In addition, at least 45 percent of the children in Doña Ana County come to kindergarten unprepared because they do not know numbers, shapes, letters and other basic skills.  It is the objective of the alliance — through the First Teacher/Primer Maestro Program – to change that paradigm,” Hartley said. 

The alliance, she said, is especially excited to be working with the “Little Black Dress Initiative” during a growth year for the organization. 

Hartley serves as the alliance’s first-ever full-time executive director, joined by Jennifer Alvarado, the alliance’s programs manager. Their goal, she said, is to improve and grow the alliance’s programs, which are offered in both English and Spanish. 

“This a perfect time to let our community know that we are growing and changing, and we can use both physical and financial support in our endeavors,” says Hartley.  Individuals interested in donating to the Children’s Reading Alliance — or volunteering — can call 575-522-3713 or send an email to ahartley@cralc.org

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