Witnessing Our Ministry Brings Joy, Hope

May 11, 2018

Last week, I was working on literacy with a sweet little kindergartner named Nia. She is so sweet, a tiny little thing with the biggest brown eyes you’ve ever seen. She is bright, too. She was easily mastering the material I brought that day, and I suggested we read Green Eggs and Ham instead.

Nia’s big brown eyes lit up and she exclaimed, “Yes! I love that book! My brother has that book and CD! Our older brother puts it on for us and we read along with it.”

As I sat there, listening to her read the story perfectly, I was overcome with the feeling that I was witnessing a small piece of the good the First Presbyterian literacy ministry is doing.

You see, Green Eggs and Ham was one of the books selected by teachers at Westerly Hills Academy for us to purchase with your holiday book drive contributions. Nia’s brother received Green Eggs and Ham, along with an audio CD, with the rest of his first grade class. And here was his sister, who is spending time at home reading with her brothers, reading that very book to me.

My heart was full with joy and hope.

I was also reminded of the day I sat with all the books that your donations made possible. Before FPC volunteers delivered the books, I prayed over those books, asking God to bless the children who received them. I prayed that the books would spark a love of reading and perhaps create some special moments for the children who received them.

My time with Nia felt a little bit like God showing me that my prayer was being answered.

The road to achieving literacy success at Westerly Hills may be a long one, but glimpses of success along the way are encouraging. We are fortunate to have the guidance of Read Charlotte, which has shared its blueprint for success:

  • help children build home libraries;
  • empower families to support literacy at home;
  • provide high quality, targeted tutoring; and
  • stop summer reading loss.

The last of these is particularly relevant as we prepare to kick off our BELL summer learning program on June 18.

Summer reading loss between grades K – 9 contributes to more than 2/3 of the achievement gap between low-income students and those who are from middle- and high-income homes. Our BELL scholars consistently gain between one and three months of reading every year; most children who do not read during the summer lose one month. It’s sometimes called the summer slide, which we tackle again this year by helping them experience learning as fun and rewarding.

BELL will be in session for 6 weeks, June 18–July 25. Every Monday through Thursday, 60 scholars (rising first through third graders) will learn in the morning and experience enrichment activities (such as yoga, Lego robotics, coding, dance and swimming) in the afternoon. Every Friday our scholars go on fun, educational field trips.

Nia and her brother will be at BELL this summer, reading, playing, laughing and learning with 58 of their friends. Sign up online to volunteer (one time or many times) and experience our mission first-hand. You’ll be so glad you did.

~Heather Herring, Child & Family Partnership Coordinator