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EL Students Win Global Award

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    Ben Smith

“Hooked on Books”, a city-wide literacy campaign created and led by the students of the Santa Fe School for the Arts and Sciences (SFSAS), is the Grand Prize Winner of the 2012 Global Call to Action. The award, given by the Pearson Foundation and PeaceJam, recognizes the school’s student committee, Youth United, for mobilizing middle and high school students to promote literacy and encourage a love of reading across all of the city’s schools.  SFSAS Principal and co-founder Rayna Dineen and her students developed this multi-faceted program to promote reading in Sante Fe after a Fund For Teachers trip to India to visit a model literacy program.

Hooked on Books Contests

Students created a series of monthly contests for elementary students with tempting prizes like bicycles, skateboards, and Kindles to motivate students to read. Many of the contests ended with fun events to help develop a sense of joy around reading.

Mini-Lending Libraries

As the students ran and promoted these contests, they discovered that not enough children in Santa Fe had access to books. In response, they set up "Hooked On Books" bookshelves in doctor's offices, hospitals, supermarkets, and other public places. The bookshelves are stocked with donated books collected and sorted by the students.

Intensive Summer Reading Workshop

SFSAS students also realized that many of the children they were targeting with the program lacked even the basic reading skills and confidence to enter their contests or take advantage of the books they were distributing. So, in the summer of 2012, they created and ran a free two-week intensive summer day camp called "Reading is Magic." As a result of the two weeks with the student volunteers of Youth United, the children raised their reading scores by one grade level.

Promoting Literacy Beyond Santa Fe

In addition to addressing literacy in their own community, the students of the Santa Fe School for the Arts and Sciences have made Youth United a citywide student committee and formed a larger coalition to promote literacy across New Mexico. They have taken their story to Albuquerque to present at a TED event and created additional videos to showcase the program. 

In recognition of this outstanding work, SFSAS student representatives from Youth United will attend the PeaceJam conference in Denver to meet with Nobel Peace Laureate Leymah Gbowee. A Nobel Peace Laureate from the PeaceJam board will spend a day at the Santa Fe School for the Arts and Sciences to discuss next steps for the Hooked on Books campaign.

View their TED talk here: