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Cherie Miner, a member of Grant United Methodist Church, is part of the Bishop’s Poverty to Opportunity Taskforce, which has led to the creation of Change a Child’s Story. This initiative, which has recognized that educating young children is one of the best ways to ultimately keep them out of poverty, is dedicated to providing kids with books and encouraging volunteers to read to them.
The Change a Child’s Story team has been getting the word out to all districts about the effort. “In almost every district we have a team leader, a point person that we’re trying to let people know is their coordinator for Change a Child’s Story if they have questions or ideas,” explains Cherie. She says that the number of churches that have pledged to participate varies, but they have as high as 37% participation in one district.
“We know there are probably some churches out there who are already doing things, but they haven’t filled out a pledge form, and we’d really like them to do that, so we know what they’re doing. We want them to share their stories about what’s happening. And we know there’s a lot happening out there.”
Cherie’s own experiences reading to children help fuel her passion for the project. “When I think about reading to a child, I think about a little girl who was part of our church after-school program. She happened to be a child from an economically-disadvantaged family, and she and her brother would come to our church after school program. Sometimes they were hungry and they were there for food, but probably with Destiny, it was more a matter of time and attention. Every week she would ask ‘Can I sit on your lap?’” Cherie recalls.
“We’d read books together. In fact, we have a nice library at our church, and we would let her take some books home. She was very careful of bringing them back and getting new books. But we made sure when they left our community that they kept some of those books. And I know in the long run, that’s going to help her hopefully break that cycle that her family is in right now of poverty.”
Reading, and the education that comes with it, empowers kids to do more. “They can go farther. They become more self-confident – about themselves, about their ability to achieve. It opens doors, and you can see that. You can see when a kid gets it. You can see the lightbulb going off. It’s exciting.”
To get started participating in Change a Child’s Story, Cherie suggests that people simply “Bring a box in. Put a book in it. Explain why it’s there.” For those interested in reading to kids, she advises turning to libraries, schools, or teachers and asking if they need help reading to children, or if there is a way to get books to children who need them. “Look at your local food pantries,” she adds. “Look at your doctor’s offices. Sometimes they know when there are kids in need. They may be willing to put out books for kids. There are all kinds of places. Just start asking questions.”
Change a Child’s Story is a great opportunity to get teens and pre-teens involved in a meaningful and rewarding activity. “Youth groups would be perfect for this,” she says. “You’ve got pre-schoolers and kindergartners and first-graders who need help reading. They love older kids. They love having those role models come and spend time with them.”
Cherie and other volunteers with the initiative are working to get more churches committed to Change a Child’s Story. “Each of our district team leaders are going to be presenting at district conferences. We’re going to be asking churches, if they haven’t pledged, go ahead and make that pledge, fill out the paperwork.” Even if churches still have some uncertainty about what resources they will be able to dedicate to it, she suggests they make a pledge, even if it’s just a small number of books or hours.
“Pledge something and bring that with you. Be ready to bring it to Annual Conference with you. If your church is already doing things, think about what are your most powerful stories,” she says. “Be ready to share those stories with people. At Annual Conference, we’re going to have a time and a place for you to bring us pledges forward, so we can celebrate that together.”
Many of us take books for granted, but there is no question that reading at a young age really can change a child’s future for the better. “It’s all about the kids,” says Cherie. “It’s about helping all our kids do better. It’s about the church getting back to that mission of serving the least among us.”
Visit the Change a Child’s Story page—Click Here!