When the Ministry with the Poor Team decided to collect new children's books for the 2016 Annual Conference mission project, they knew connection with nonprofits working with the issue of child literacy would be important. Therefore, the Bazillion Book Drive Team worked with the Conference Office of Communication to create a request form and began to solicit requests from nonprofit agencies, classrooms, libraries and other agencies.
One of the earliest requests received was from STAIR (Start the Adventure in Reading). Their request stated, "The children we serve often times don't have books at home. We would love to provide each child with a book at graduation the first week of May."
In the fall of each school year, STAIR works with Birmingham City Schools to identify second graders who could benefit from their tutoring program. These students attend school regularly, and their teachers believe with one-on-one help from a trained tutor, their reading skills will improve.
STAIR made it easy by specifying their request. They asked for 170 "Step Into Reading" books rated levels two, three and four. The Bazillion Book Drive Team shared the request with District Offices, and the Central District immediately pledged 100 books. Huffman United Methodist Church added 56 more, and the South Central District and Conference staff chipped in to bring the total to 190. We delivered 20 more books than STAIR requested on April 21, a few days before the first graduation ceremony was scheduled.
"STAIR is so excited that our students will have a new book to read this summer thanks to the Bazillion Book Drive," said STAIR Executive Director Liz Edwards. "Studies show that students who read four to six books over the summer can prevent summer learning loss and enter school in the fall not having lost two months of achievement."
Statistics show that most students living in low-income homes lose about two months of grade level equivalency in reading skills over the summer months. More than half of the achievement gap between lower- and higher-income youth can be explained by unequal access to summer learning opportunities. Summer learning loss is a major stumbling block to children living in poverty, because poor families have fewer age-appropriate books in their homes. According to studies, as many as 61 per cent of low-income families have no books at all for their children. "We know that having a book at home is critical to keeping these students on track for success in school and in life," said Edwards.
STAIR volunteers work with the same student each week for an entire school year to create a special bond and build the student's self-esteem. The children savor the individual attention from an adult and a life-changing relationship often evolves through weeks of reading together and learning in a personal, safe environment. Leaders at STAIR believe this tutor/student bond is the greatest factor in the success of their program. "The number of students STAIR serves is limited by the number of volunteer tutors we have," said Liz Hixson, volunteer coordinator for STAIR. "We are continually seeking volunteers to tutor our underserved second grade students." Volunteers commit to two hours, one afternoon a week for the school year. Tutors utilize step by step curriculum that requires no outside prep work. "We are looking for a church partner whose members would be interested in volunteering at our Bush K-8 site starting in the fall," she said. Those interested in joining STAIR in their work should email Liz Hixson.
The Bazillion Book Drive is already a success because passionate team members are stepping up to fulfill the requests we have received. Some of these requests have a short timeline. If you, your congregation or small group are willing to help fulfill a request, contact Lyn Cosby or call your District Office.
Watch the video below about the Bazillion Book Drive which includes the STAIR donation.