61% of children in poverty don’t have children’s books at home.
86% of children with parents who didn’t graduate high school live in low-income families.
One million books and a million hours of reading with children – that’s the goal of Iowa United Methodists in the next two years in a new initiative called, “Change a Child’s Story.”
Nearly twenty percent of Iowa’s United Methodist churches have already committed to the effort. More than 1000 books have been collected and individual and organizational partnerships are already forming. Some 1600 lay and clergy, representing Iowa Conference’s congregations and their 175,000 members, unanimously and enthusiastically endorsed the effort to make a difference in the lives of Iowa children at the recent statewide meeting.
In 2012, roughly 1 in 4 or 8,947 Iowa fourth-graders scored below proficient level on the state reading test. Research indicates that a quarter of kids who are behind in reading by the 4th grade will eventually drop out of school, making them more likely to experience other hardships, including jail time. The academic and economic futures of almost 90,000 young Iowans are at risk.
“Almost anyone can read to a child and help that child to read back to them,” said the Rev. Clint Twedt-Ball of the Poverty to Opportunity task force, created last year to help identify ways the church can lead and facilitate anti-poverty measures. He said “providing kids living in poverty with books seemed like a good start,” but the idea goes far beyond collecting books and giving them away.
“This is something that we all can be a part of – changing a child’s life by helping a child to be able to read,” said Iowa United Methodist Bishop Julius C. Trimble. “It’s not about politics. It’s about a passion for children and closing the gap between those who are in poverty and those who succeed in the educational journey of life.”
“We want these books to be a way that churches connect with kids in their neighborhood and their community,” said Twedt-Ball. “That’s where the second part of the goal comes in, to invest a million hours in these children’s futures. Reading is a great way to build relationships.” The task force will be working to help churches get involved by connecting them to local resources and agencies. “In some places, it’s going to make the most sense to connect with a school, in other places it’s going to make more sense to connect with a non-profit. And in some churches, they already have amazing programs that are happening, so it’s just strengthening their own program,” he said. “We are excited about the Iowa United Methodist Church putting a plan into action to support struggling readers,” said Becky Miles-Polka.
The senior consultant and Iowa lead to the Campaign for Grade Level Reading added, “Reading is an urgent issue that has a direct impact on children’s ability to succeed. We look forward to this partnership growing.”
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