BROWNSVILLE, Texas (ValleyCentral)- The University of Texas RGV is taking books on the road to underserved students across the Valley.

The RGV is educationally and economically underserved with 32% of the population living below the poverty level, according to UTRGV early childcare associate professor, Dr. Irasema Gonzalez.

Over the course of the COVID-19 pandemic, low-income children’s reading levels dropped from being 1.5 years behind where they needed to be to two years behind.

UTRGV wanted to increase that number, and so with financial assistance from the Raul Tijerina Jr. Foundation, the university was able to equip the unit with IPads, bilingual children’s books, interactive learning games, and more.

Photo of UTRGV Mobile Literacy Unit

Dr. Gonzalez told ValleyCentral that books are now becoming the same cost as basic necessities such as food and clothing. The pricing is putting parents in a situation where they’ll have to make tough financial decisions, and she doesn’t want them to have to make that choice.

“We read books, but we also want to develop that love for literacy, that love for reading in the community and we do that through book extensions,” said Dr. Gonzalez.

The university’s literacy unit took a trip to Millie M. Pullman Elementary School on Nov. 12 and was able to provide seven of its classrooms with free books.

Dr. Gonzalez plans on taking the mobile literacy unit to Canales Elementary School next on November 18 from 12:30 p.m. to 2:30 p.m. Following will be the Ramirez Elementary School on Nov. 30, a time has not been determined yet.