The following brief video segment about summer learning loss inspires and motivates our churches to create ways to supplement learning opportunities for our lower-income public school children during the summer months when they are not involved in daily, planned, organized instruction. Sending children home for the summer with donated new and gently used age-appropriate books for them to read; hosting short-term reading camps at church or at school; continuing to serve as reading buddies and reading tutors in person or virtually; encouraging and hosting weekly public library visits — all of these and many more creative ways to keep children learning during the summer will help to close the learning gap based on the economic status of our children’s families. Watch this video and share this message with others. Let’s continue to truly be Congregations for Children all year long.
May is upon us, when many of our local churches throughout the conference hold book drives to collect age-appropriate books for elementary school students to take home in an effort to reduce learning loss over the summer months. Local church C4C volunteers coordinate with their partner elementary school teachers, media specialists, counselors, or other staff to get recommendations on book titles, age levels, and even the number of children that would benefit from this service. Of course, we want to focus on low income children who do not have many of the advantages other children might have, but many churches are able to send multiple books home with every child in Kindergarten through third grade — and sometimes every child in the school!
When C4C began several years ago, State Superintendent of Public Instruction June Atkinson had introduced a statewide “Give Five, Read Five” initiative to encourage local churches and civic organizations to provide five new or gently used books for every child to take home at the end of the school year. C4C used that initiative to jump-start spring book drives across the conference. Many of our churches have made this an annual event, and some have expanded it to other times in the year, as well.
K-3 literacy is at the very heart of C4C. Book drives are one way churches can show their commitment to childhood literacy — “learning to read and reading to learn.” We hope that churches throughout our conference will approach their local elementary schools to see if they might accept this gesture of generosity and support — and then shower the children with books!
Congregations 4 Children in the Western NC Conference of The UMC, Western NC CAN (Child Advocacy Network), and NC Child is hosting a virtual event, “Faith into Action: Advocating for Children in NC,” on May 6 from 1 – 2 pm.
The event will include:
- an overview and explanation of legislative process in NC;
- current status and needs regarding funding for child and family programs; and
- steps to activate congregations and community partners.
On December 1, 2020 an excellent Zoom webinar was presented by Knollwood Baptist Church in Charlotte as part of their ongoing “Faith in the City” series. “All Children are Our Children: The Community’s Role in Education” focused on the partnership among the Winston-Salem/Forsyth Public School System, Galilee Missionary Baptist Church, and the nonprofit organization “Imprint Cares” to create remote learning centers throughout the county to enhance educational opportunities for low income children.
The centers are located in parts of the county where they are accessible to low income children and their families and they are staffed by active and retired teachers and other qualified and trained adult volunteers who serve as tutors. Churches in our NC Conference are encouraged to consider ways to use this model to expand our church-school-community partnerships in support of our public school children. Indeed, “All Children are Our Children!”
Watch the Recording
Shared with permission.
Soapstone United Methodist Church in Raleigh (Capital District) began the “Soapstone Schoolhouse” in September 2020 to meet the needs of local students and families who made the sudden shift to remote learning this year. With the church sanctuary and classrooms unused by their traditional ministries, they were able to offer their space to 23 students in the first session, and 29 students in the second session, who came each school day to turn the Soapstone worship space into a gathering place for remote learning.
Photo taken by Danny Peck.
The large space in the sanctuary allowed this group to participate in school in the midst of other students while still maintaining social distance protocols, but also to enjoy fellowship during their breaks. Students from third grade through twelfth grade took advantage of this one-room schoolhouse approach to a learning space and used their down time together for everything from playing four square and basketball outside to learning from adult church members how to knit (and teaching the volunteers how to play “Among Us”).
Photo taken by Danny Peck.
A conference C4C Community Connectivity Grant helped with the big WiFi service and equipment upgrade necessitated by 30+ simultaneous video connections and helped make this dream a reality for the students who were otherwise missing the normal interaction of in-person learning, the parents who still needed to be at work, and the faithful members of Soapstone who were looking for new ways to serve in the ever-changing landscape of 2020.
“When you talk about children who are hungry … that’s a sore spot for everybody. I think it worked because we had this partnership with everybody.”Margaret Skulnik
The Congregations for Children (C4C) committee at First UMC in Graham worked with the nutritionists at Alamance County Schools to procure and set up a food truck. First UMC partnered with other faith communities in the area to raise the funds, purchase the truck, and get it set up and ready to serve.
The original idea was to feed children in the summer months when access to free and reduced lunch was not available. The truck is now being used to feed students who are learning virtually due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
Margaret Skulnik, who chairs the C4C committee, and Rev. Claire Clyburn, the pastor of First UMC, share how the partnership with Alamance County Schools came about and how this ministry has impacted both the community and the church.
For more information on Congregations for Children, visit the C4C website.