A Room to Read

by Dana Greenblatt, AmeriCorps VISTA

Amidst the flurry of fall leaves and the bustle of tourists enjoying our downtown plaza, 64 third graders from Sweeney Elementary eagerly filed off their buses and into the beautiful halls of the Inn of the Anasazi. The children whispered in excitement as they walked through the halls and into the cozy arrangement that awaited them in the Inn’s reading room. As the children made themselves comfortable among the blankets and pillows spread invitingly near the fireplace, local storyteller Joe Hayes wasted no time in addressing the group and asking the students about their favorite books and stories. When everyone was comfortable and ready to listen, Joe whisked the group along on a storytelling journey. The Sweeney students sat captivated as Joe seamlessly moved between English and Spanish in telling his tales.

Joe started with a story that was new to many new to many and ended the morning with well-known folklore, La Llarona. Laughs and gasps of surprise could be heard amongst the students as they listened. Some sections of the story required hand movements and song from the group, creating an immersive and engaging experience for both the children and adults gathered around the fireplace. Following story time, Inn staff addressed the students to thank them for their visit and encourage them to remain excited about reading and writing stories. Sweeney students were then invited to enjoy cookies and hot chocolate, courtesy of the Inn. After the morning’s events, students boarded their buses back to Sweeney with cookies and coco in their stomachs and new stories running through their imagination.

If you are curious about how this unexpected arrangement came to be, you are not alone. Often  the north and south sides of Santa Fe feel like different worlds in more ways than one. While the majority of families and schools are situated on the southside of Santa Fe, popular tourist attractions are clustered in the north, with little crossover between the two. However, the folks at the Rosewood’s Inn at the Anasazi sought to change this dynamic when they reached out to Opportunity Santa Fe Birth to Career. The Rosewood Inn chain is committed to philanthropic engagement in the communities across the country, and the Inn of the Anasazi is no different.  Inn staff contacted Opportunity Santa Fe with the idea to support literacy and education in Santa Fe during September, national literacy month, with the Room to Read event. The Inn offered to provide space, a local storyteller and refreshments if Opportunity Santa Fe assisted in finding interested classes. Through a collaboration with Sweeney Elementary School, Opportunity Santa Fe Americorps VISTAs were able to find three third grade class teachers who were quick to take advantage of the Inns unique offer.

This coordinated effort to support youth literacy through a fun and innovative event left all parties satisfied and motivated to continue collaborating. The Sweeney teachers were grateful for the invitation and eager for more opportunities to work with the business community. The Inn staff who had coordinated the event, waved the busses goodbye with the knowledge that they had provided over 60 students with a unique and enriching experience. It is our hope, that this successful partnership can serve as a launching point for similar efforts within the downtown business community. Creating meaningful and lasting partnerships across Santa Fe is a big task, but hot chocolate, cookies and well told story are a good place to start!