The Level Up Reading Challenge

Speaking at the Summer Convening

The Level Up Reading Challenge

New Mexico’s quest for superhero readers

By Severo Martinez

To foster a profound love for literature among the youth of New Mexico, the New Mexico Public Education Department (NMPED) has embarked on an ambitious journey with the launch of the Level Up Reading Challenge. This innovative initiative seeks to ignite a passion for reading in students across the state while empowering them to elevate their reading skills to superhero levels.

At the forefront of this thrilling adventure are Ralph the Reader and Ricky the Roadrunner, affectionately known as the mascots of literacy. These beloved characters are on an exhilarating mission, navigating the enchanting landscapes of New Mexico and visiting Structured Literacy Model and Support Schools across the state. Their purpose? To spread the message of the Level Up Reading Challenge and inspire the next generation of Superhero Readers.

A component of the Level Up Reading Challenge is the encouragement for students to read This Is New Mexico / Este es Nuevo Mexico,penned by Severo Martinez, Director of the NMPED Literacy and Humanities Bureau. This captivating literary journey delves into the rich cultural tapestry and history of New Mexico and also kindles the curiosity of young minds, urging them to explore the enchantment of reading.

Martinez, the visionary behind this challenge, emphasizes its broader significance: “The Level Up Reading Challenge is more than just a reading initiative; it’s a call to action for every child in New Mexico to embrace the power of literacy. We challenge students to rise to the occasion, change their mindset, and work diligently on their reading and writing skills. We want to shine a spotlight on Superhero Readers and provide exciting incentives to encourage every child to level up their literacy.”

Severo introduces Ricky the Roadrunner

Severo as Ralph the Reader on Ralph & Ricky’s New Mexico Adventure.

For the NMPED, promoting literacy is paramount. It forms the cornerstone of a child’s educational journey and paves the way for lifelong learning. In Ricky the Roadrunner, the department has found a symbol of positivity and the transformative potential of literacy. Through the Level Up Reading Challenge, the department aspires to inspire every child in New Mexico to enhance their literacy skills and embark on a journey of personal growth and achievement.

The NMPED called on all educators—not just those in Structured Literacy Model and Support Schools—to join in this exciting endeavor. Numerous teachers signed up for the challenge and will receive a Ralph the Reader and Ricky the Roadrunner Level Up Reading Challenge classroom kit. This kit includes a classroom set of This Is New Mexico / Este es Nuevo Mexico pencils, stickers, Superhero Reader capes, and a classroom pledge that students will sign, making a promise to do their very best regarding reading and writing.

For those interested in witnessing the magic unfold in the classrooms, a comprehensive informational video is available. Everyone is invited to join Ralph the Reader and Ricky the Roadrunner on their literacy adventure by visiting the program’s blog. Martinez also hosts a read-along on the “Storytime with Severo” YouTube channel.

The NMPED has made significant strides in improving literacy education through its implementation of structured literacy programs. Structured literacy is an evidence-based approach to teaching reading that emphasizes the systematic, explicit instruction of phonemic awareness, phonics, fluency, vocabulary, and comprehension. This approach is rooted in the Science of Reading, a body of research that has deepened the understanding of how the brain processes written language and how individuals learn to read. By embracing structured literacy and the Science of Reading, the NMPED has demonstrated a commitment to evidence-based practices that benefit students across the state.

Structured literacy programs, which align with the Science of Reading, provide a foundation for reading instruction that is particularly effective for struggling readers and students with dyslexia. By focusing on the fundamental skills required for reading success, such as sound-symbol correspondence and decoding, students can build a strong literacy foundation. This approach also emphasizes the importance of oral language development, which is essential for comprehension and vocabulary growth. The NMPED’s commitment to structured literacy and the Science of Reading ensures that teachers are equipped with the knowledge and tools to support all students in their literacy development, ultimately promoting higher levels of literacy proficiency among New Mexico’s youth.

Ralph the Reader and Ricky the Roadrunner Mascots

Ralph the Reader and Ricky the Roadrunner Mascots.

The Science of Reading has transformed the understanding of reading instruction, and the NMPED’s embrace of structured literacy aligns with the research and best practices that have emerged from this scientific approach. By providing professional development, resources, and support for teachers to implement structured literacy strategies in the classroom, the NMPED is working to bridge the gap in literacy achievement and empower students to become proficient readers. This comprehensive approach not only benefits students during their formative years but also has a lasting impact on their academic success and overall well-being. The NMPED’s commitment to structured literacy and the Science of Reading reflects a progressive and research-driven approach to education that will benefit generations of New Mexico students.

This initiative allows the NMPED to support educators in their Science of Reading journey. The NMPED has over 9,000 educators and administrators enrolled in Science of Reading training. The NMPED also provides coaching support to over 1,200 educators across the state, serving 25,000 students in kindergarten through 5th grade.

Structured Literacy New Mexico continues to increase the number of students achieving reading proficiency and reduce the number of students requiring special education services statewide. Senate Bill 398, signed into law in 2019, supports the work of this initiative by requiring every first-grade student to be screened for dyslexia. SB398 also states that every public school district and charter school must train administrators and teachers who teach reading to implement appropriate evidence-based reading interventions.

The Level Up Reading Challenge is more than an initiative; it’s an invitation for every child in New Mexico to become a Superhero Reader. With the support of the governor, educators, students, and the enduring power of literature, New Mexico is poised to witness a literary renaissance that will shape the future of its children for generations to come.

Severo Martinez, Director, NMPED Literacy & Humanities Bureau, was born, raised, and educated in New Mexico. As a lifelong educator and author, he began as a high school tutor for underserved populations in rural Northern New Mexico. He graduated from the University of New Mexico with degrees in Bilingual Education, TESOL, and Spanish, and taught in Albuquerque’s South Valley at Dolores Gonzales Elementary. In 2014, Severo began his career with the New Mexico Public Education Department and has worked with the Assessment Bureau, School Improvement, and has been the Literacy and Humanities Director since 2018. Severo is also a musician who has performed across the Southwest and established the Soy Nuevo Mexicano Scholarship Fund to benefit New Mexico high school students. ”Get lost in a book and let it take you on a new adventure. Reading can take you to a faraway place and help you learn about your local community. There are no limits!”

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