This week, every student at Hillis Elementary School in Des Moines, Iowa will go home with five brand-new books of their very own thanks to the generosity of Immanuel United Methodist Church.
Thanks to a matching grant from the Educational Development Corporation, Immanuel UMC is purchasing reading-level appropriate books for every student. The distribution of the books will be during a book fair at Hillis Elementary on May 26.
In 2012, roughly 1 in 4 Iowa fourth-graders scored below proficient level on the state reading test. Research indicates that a quarter of kids who are behind 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.
According to the Campaign for Grade-Level Reading, 61% of children in poverty do not have children’s books in their home. So United Methodists in Iowa have decided to respond and put into action a plan to support struggling readers. Churches across the state have committed to giving books and give time to help break the cycle of poverty through the “Change a Child’s Story Initiative.”
“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.”
Immanuel United Methodist Church is building on their partnership with Hillis Elementary in Des Moines. For the past few years, they have helped encourage parents through “Donuts for Dads” and “Muffins for Moms” and have a number of volunteers who work with the Literacy Army at the elementary school. In the fall of 2015, the church set the bold goal to send every student at Hillis home with five books of their very own.
“We set a goal that we thought might be a three-year goal and were just flabbergasted that we had reached it in just six months,” said Immanuel member, Sherrie Spooner. “When you get excited about something and set your mind to it, it's amazing what can happen.”
?Erin McGargill, Hillis Instructional Coach, and Change a Child's Story task force member shared, “Most of us have warm memories of adults reading to us as a child and reading our favorite book over and over again. Unfortunately, not all children get that opportunity. The partnership between Immanuel and Hillis has provided an opportunity for many kids to make lasting positive memories with reading throughout the school year. This end of year book fair is a wonderful culmination of the partnership. This gift of books will help students prevent the summer slide as they leave school until their return in August.”