UCC to March Forth for Literacy
Volunteer at an after-school program. Donate books to a local library. Build a “Little Library” in the community. The United Church of Christ, urging congregations to promote literacy in the Reading Changes Lives initiative, is reminding members to take action next month by collecting books, volunteering, advocating and donating in a one-day, church-wide effort—March Forth for Literacy—on March 4.
March Forth for Literacy will be a day for a concentrated focus on literacy awareness throughout the UCC. It will offer congregations the opportunity to share with the wider church their involvement in literacy issues locally and nationally, and will give individuals the chance to share their experiences, either as volunteers with literacy organizations or persons who have struggled with literacy themselves.
“When we began Reading Changes Lives, we wanted to demonstrate the impact of literacy and its importance in everyday life,” said the Rev. M. Linda Jaramillo, executive minister of the UCC Justice and Witness Ministries. “There was a tremendous response to that, and we are just as excited to see how people are moved to action to March Forth for Literacy.”
Reading Changes Lives began in the fall of 2014 with the inaugural “One Read,” an all-church read of the inspirational book, “Hotdogs and Hamburgers: Unlocking Life’s Potential by Inspiring Literacy at Any Age,” by Rob Shindler.
The initiative continues this spring with March Forth for Literacy, promoting denomination-wide goals and hands-on participation, similar to past all-church initiatives, Mission: 1 and Mission 4/1 Earth.
Later this year, General Synod 30, taking place in late June in Cleveland, will highlight literacy as a service project focus and ask Synod attendees to participate within the greater Cleveland community, one of the country’s urban centers of illiteracy.
First UCC in Sugarcreek, Ohio, has been busy working since September to advance literacy. The congregation partnered with the Tuscarawas County Literacy Coalition to promote two reading projects. The first was a reading of “Hotdogs and Hamburgers” as part of the UCC’s One Read, and the second was a reading of “Side-Yard Super Hero.” Members of the church were encouraged to join the coalition and volunteer for local events sponsored by that group.
“We introduced the One Read literacy initiative on Sept. 7,” said church member Pat Edgar. “Our Women’s Book Club at church just finished reading and discussing Hot Dogs and Hamburgers, so the word is continuing to spread.”
In the months since, Edgar, who has helped lead the church’s efforts, has worked to arrange a visit for Shindler to speak sometime this spring in the area on the effects of low reading levels in the U.S.
“Literacy stirs my mind and soul, and hopefully my hands, to action,” Edgar said.
A Texas congregation, inspired by Reading Changes Lives, is undertaking a project to fund a Worldreader project that would supply 50 e-readers and 5,000 books to a school for the deaf in Kenya, donating $1,000 to the cause.
“Over Christmas we gathered some money for a Faith UCC Literacy Fund,” said the Rev. Scott Martin, pastor at Faith UCC in New Braunfels, Texas.
Now they’re trying to urge others to do the same. The program costs $10,000, and Worldreader is looking for 10 individuals or groups to fund the project so it can move forward.
“So far only Faith UCC and a family on the West Coast have signed up. They seem to be having trouble finding other people or organizations to make a $1,000 each. [I think this] would be perfect for the UCC emphasis on literacy.”
Statistics show that almost 30 million people in the U.S. read below a fifth-grade level, which means that nearly 14 percent of the adult population doesn’t read well enough to fill out a job application.
Said Jaramillo, “It warms my heart that we have so many churches whose passion for justice burns bright. They recognize literacy as an important issue—considering the literacy rates in this country—and are stepping out to do something.
“On March 4, we hope the wider church will join us as we work together to help those struggling with literacy.”
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