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NMSU education faculty partnering with alternative middle school on literacy project

New Mexico State University College of Education faculty David Rutledge and Mary Fahrenbruck are working with the Mesilla Valley Alternative Middle School to build Little Free Libraries for the community.

A national initiative to promote literacy and the love of reading by building free book exchanges, the Little Free Library concept started in Wisconsin in 2009 and continues to grow across the country. Rutledge and Fahrenbruck both encountered the program during their summer trips to different states and when they compared notes at the beginning of the fall semester decided they wanted to bring the concept to Las Cruces.

The little libraries, which resemble a mail box or bird house, are constructed and located in a central location where people can leave or take a book. The idea is to share books with the community for free. Most of the little libraries are made from recycled materials and that's one way the Las Cruces community can help with the project, Rutledge said.

Rutledge immediately thought of the alternative school to build the libraries and has partnered with John Arguello, the building trades and industrial arts instructor.

The school is part of the Las Cruces Public Schools and is a project-based learning program where middle school students can gain practical skills in addition to tackling the core curriculum.

"Project-based learning really helps keep their interest," Arguello said.

Arguello will have his students build the little libraries in January, but they need materials for the project. Anything that the students can use to put the libraries together would be appreciated, he said.

"We want to involve the community and look at how they can help - used materials and things we can reycle and books," Arguello said.

"It is important for faculty to get involved in the community. The university isn't an island in a sea of humanity," Rutledge said. "Our college does a pretty good job of reaching out to the community and this is just us trying to build another bridge."

To donate materials or books to the project, contact Arguello at jarguello@lcps.k12.nm.us or 575-527-6059 or Rutledge at rutledge@nmsu.edu or 575-646-5411.