Latino Alliance for Literacy Advancement en New Mexico is the first and only organization in the United States focused on improving literacy and numeracy among Hispanic adults as a means to improve literacy and numeracy in the Hispanic community at large. We are also the first organization in the nation to use the Yo Sí Puedo adult literacy program.
While most Hispanic literacy programs in the nation focus exclusively on minor children, we were inspired by the phenomenal success of the Yo Si Puedo adult literacy program pioneered in Cuba and currently used in 30 countries around the world. Yo Si Puedo, which has taught more than 6 million adults to read around the world, has proven that the key to literacy in children is having literate adults in their homes.
When you realize that more than half of all US adult Hispanics are functionally illiterate (US Dept. of Education), it makes sense to provide literacy and numeracy skills to adults as well as children, as the key to changing whole family literacy dynamics.
Nationally, Hispanics are far less likely to possess basic literacy skills than are members of any other racial or ethnic group. The percentage of Hispanics who measure “below basic” in the ability to read prose is growing faster than it is in any other group. According to the National Center for Education Statistics, 44 percent of U.S. Hispanics fall into this category; by comparison, only 7 percent of non-Hispanic whites, and 24 percent of non-Hispanic blacks do.
Only 4 percent of Hispanic adults in the United States are considered proficient prose readers.
According to the US Dept. of Education, New Mexico has one of the worst high school graduation rates in the nation, with only 63 percent of all students finishing high school. (Only Nevada and the District of Columbia had worse statistics, at 62 percent.) The majority of families served by New Mexico public schools are Hispanic, with 82% of those enrolled in pre-K programs being Latinos.
LALA en New Mexico was founded in 2014 by bestselling author and award-winning journalist Alisa Valdés Gandy.
“At first, I was concerned about the low numbers of Latino authors being published in the United States,” says Valdés Gandy. “In researching the situation, I realized that the lack of publishing support for Latino authors is directly related to our lack of readers; it’s not that publishing is out to get us, but rather that our communities aren’t placing a high value on literacy.
“We are the nation’s largest minority group, numbering more than 60 million people, but only 4 percent of us are proficient readers! It’s tragic. I put my journalist hat on and began to investigate the root causes, and the consequences, of low literacy in Hispanic communities, and what I found was incredible.
“While I knew reading and writing were important, it wasn’t until I did this research that I truly understood the vast impact low literacy and numeracy have on a person’s life. Seventy-five percent of people in prison are illiterate. Most teen moms struggle with literacy. Low literacy makes people more likely to be poor, sick, drug addicted, alcoholic, criminal, homeless – you name the social ill, literacy is the cure.
“What started out as me trying to figure out why more people weren’t buying books by Latino authors ended up turning into this big social mission to help my community for its own sake. I realized it was all connected – the lack of published Latino authors is just part of the same sad recipe for simmering misery and disenfranchisement in Hispanic America. I could not know these things and just sit there with that information; I had to do something about it. Something big. Something profound. Something effective. LALA de New Mexico is it.”
LALA is part of New Mexico Foundation for Literacy & the Arts and has a fiscal sponsorship through the Albuquerque Hispano Chamber of Commerce.