The South Texas Literacy Coalition was formed nearly 10 years ago during a convening of community leaders at HESTEC that was spearheaded by Congressman Rubén Hinojosa. STLC continues to help make a difference in the lives of children and families by providing literacy resources. Hear more from Dr. Ida Garza below.
Q: How does your organization serve the Rio Grande Valley?
A: We are here for the entire Valley, from Brownsville to Laredo. We are lacking in local research on literacy rates. According to the 2010 census, south of San Antonio, there is a literacy rate of 58 percent. That means that 42 percent of our Rio Grande Valley is at some level of illiteracy — they can’t read well or write well. We’re thankful that our dropout rate has decreased in the last 10 years, but it was at 50 percent from the 1980s until the early 2000s. My oldest son graduated from high school in 1996. His freshman class started at 800+ students, but they only graduated 443. I asked myself, “What happened to everybody else?”
A few years ago, our board decided to focus on family literacy. They wanted Valley families to learn to read for pleasure, and so we took on a three-pronged approach.
- Focus on the South Texas Reading Initiative. We give out 60,000 new books every year, especially to those financially in need and at risk. Last year we gave out books at 30 different events. Wow!
- Provide opportunities for literacy providers to receive professional development at our annual symposium.
- Gather local research.
Q: What are the mission and vision of your organization?
A: The mission of the South Texas Literacy Coalition is to enhance and enrich the quality of life of our region through literacy outreach partnerships that lead to a more literate community. We envision South Texas as a community where every child and adult is a life-long learner skilled with the highest levels of literacy.
Q: How do you work with other local organizations to help improve literacy?
A: We love to collaborate with local libraries, schools and other organizations who already have great connections within the community. We like to try and bring in local authors to read with the children and engage in learning. We also like to include literacy activities – coloring, bookmark-making, games, and the book walk (like a cake walk) to show that reading and learning is a lot fun.
Q: How can volunteers help your organization?
A: At STLC, we depend on donors, contributions and grants to be able to purchase books for distribution. We are always on the lookout for books! We invite anyone in the community to hold a book drive and invite friends and family to donate new books. You could even request that birthday party guests bring books in lieu of other presents. Some of our biggest requests for books come from events around special holidays like Dr. Seuss’ birthday and Día del Niño. We are a small, local organization, so we welcome any one from the community who might like to aid in communications or social media.
Q: Do you have any upcoming special events?
A: We will be hosting a fundraiser on Thursday, April 26 that will feature a local author, Dr. Steven Schneider from UTRGV. His book, The Magic of Mariachis, beautifully combines poetry and the artwork of his wife, Reefka. The Reading Between the Wine event will be held at the Old Church Winery in McAllen and tickets are $35. We will also be celebrating our tenth anniversary in October.
Q: What would you say to Valley families who want to help raise literacy rates in the Rio Grande Valley?
A: Put the books in the children’s hands. Read with your kids for 15 minutes every day. Make it a ritual. Read to your children out loud. This will lead to improved listening and vocabulary skills. Discuss what you’re reading as you’re reading it. Maybe do a craft afterward or ask important questions like: Who was your favorite character? What did you like best in the story? How would you have ended the story differently?