Four Rio Arriba (New Mexico) Independent Libraries have been participating in the STEM to Read Program for the last three years. STEM to Read is preliteracy pilot program that focuses on science, technology, engineering, and mathematics, as well as modeling skills that will help caregivers continue STEM and preliteracy education at home. The program was created by Explora! Museum and funded through a grant from the New Mexico Library Foundation and United Way of Northern New Mexico. The grant funding has run out, but three of the four libraries that participated in the pilot program are going to continue offering STEM activities.
The New Mexico State Library created activity trunks that contain books, lesson plans, and materials on a variety of STEM subjects including water play, measurements, reflections, and wind power. These trunks can be checked out for six to eight weeks by any public library. Deanne Dekle, New Mexico State Library youth services and outreach consultant, said the library created 16 trunks that have been used by more than 3,000 people at 23 libraries in the state.
Library Director Julie Trujillo has the STEM to Read Program from 12:30-1:30 p.m. every Tuesday and Thursday with the students of Truchas Preschool. The library already had a summer reading program and didn’t have to do much to include the extra STEM activities. Trujillo used the grant money to help fund field trips for the preschool students as well as a table full of magnets and other STEM based toys.
Virginia Padilla, head librarian at Truchas, said they focused on getting the children involved in hands-on activities. “It’s not just reading, but showing the kids manual skills too,” she said. 
The Caterpillar Club, the library’s STEM to Read Program, is located at the community center next door to the Embudo Library on Wednesdays from 10:30 a.m. to noon. The program has 10 to 12 toddlers every week for hands-on STEM labs and music sessions that help the children learn rhythm, recognize names, and take turns. Embudo Library has also added STEM lessons to its afterschool and summer reading programs.
Gaia Khan brought her two sons to the to the program every week until they were too old to participate. Her sons enjoyed making volcanoes and working on hands-on projects. “I really appreciate that the library continues to support the program,” she said. “It has really been valuable to a lot of kids in the community.” 
El Rito Library
Attendance has been a problem for El Rito Library with weekly classes only averaging four children. To help increase patronage, Library Director Lynett Gillette began making monthly visits to the El Rito Elementary School. She was able to reach 15-20 more students each month through these visits. 
The STEM to Read program ended so kids could participate in the summer reading program, but STEM classes will resume on Wednesdays from 10:30 a.m. to noon starting September 14.
The program gives children who typically grow up with only family interaction an opportunity to participate in peer group learning environments which will help these students when they reach elementary school.
Librarians at Abiquiu also had problems getting children ages three to five to attend the STEM to Read program, so library officials decided to include visits to Canones Early Learning Center and the YDI Headstart. They were able to teach STEM lessons to 22 students every other week.
The library doesn’t have any specific plans to continue the STEM to Read program, but Librarian Rosalia Triana teaches STEM in the summer reading program which averages 30 kids ages six to 18.
Triana said she comes from an engineering family and tries to teach the children that engineering principles are not just for students who go to college, but it can be as simple as figuring out how to fix a bicycle.
Although most of the rural libraries want to continue the STEM to Read program, it will hinge on the Rio Arriba County budget which will be voted on in September. The currently submitted copy includes a complete funding cut for the rural libraries. However, the programs are filled with experienced educators that will work hard to see the opportunity continue for more pre-literacy children.
To check out a STEM trunk contact the New Mexico State Library’s Youth Services and Outreach Consultant, Deanne Dekle at firstname.lastname@example.org or at (505) 476-9705.
- Sisneros, J. (2017, July). Future Scientists Train at Rural Libraries. Rio Grande Sun. Retrieved from http://www.riograndesun.com/news/future-scientists-train-at-rural-libraries/article_f76f28d8-72e6-11e7-a4a2-63c592cd2b1b.html