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Read and Feed – A Collaborative Ministry

The three churches plus Lincoln Heights Elementary School are sharing the partnership involving over 50 community volunteers, serving 21 K-5th grade children identified by the school. When children can't read, they tend to be less engaged and interested in the classroom. They may feel embarrassed, angry, and frustrated. Statistics show that 88% of children who attend a Read and Feed program have improved reading attitude or confidence and teachers report that their discipline improves and they do their homework.

The Fuquay-Varina Community Read and Feed program is a collaborative effort with Sunrise UMC, First UMC (Fuquay-Varina) and Fuquay-Varina UMC as the primary partners. The Read and Feed model was developed in 2007 in Wake County with the mission of "giving kids an appetite for reading" by strengthening literacy skills and providing encouragement in a nurturing environment. The concept is to combine a child-friendly atmosphere, books, food, and tutors to motivate children to become confident in their academic skills so they have every opportunity to succeed in adult life. Read and Feed provides the training and resources for tutors and students.

Third-grader, Austin, eagerly greets school counselor, Ellen McClay, each Tuesday morning with, "I'll see you tonight at Read and Feed!" Working with his mentor, Olga Frye, his shy smile indicates that the one-on-one tutoring is important to him.

In the Fuquay site, meetings are held each Tuesday evening in the centrally-located First UMC fellowship hall, which enables several families to walk to and participate in the program. The Fuquay model is a "family literacy model" which seeks to engage the whole family in supporting the students, so the whole family is invited to participate in the meal which is provided on a rotation basis by one of the three churches. While tutors work with the children, parents participate in learning programs also – how to help with math homework, how to help with reading, developing good parenting skills, setting homework routines and selecting nutritious and healthy food options.

Children receive about 40 minutes of actively engaged age-level appropriate one-on-one tutoring based on classroom teacher recommendations and suggestions for success.  In addition, each child receives three free books each week to help build up home libraries and up to four Read and Feed incentive "book bucks" to spend on a prize, rewarding cooperation and strong effort.

In the first few weeks of the program, the volunteers were hearing reports from Lincoln Heights' staff that the Read and Feed children were more confident in classroom activities, were more engaged, and were soaring in reading skills. The children are now hungry to learn, the parents are forming a supportive network with one another, and the school is able to influence the total family for success.

Read and Feed is one of many ways churches can minister to children in their community and participate in a Congregations for Children ministry. Congregations for Children (C4C)  is an initiative of the North Carolina Conference of The United Methodist Church that encourages churches to partner with local schools in an effort to help improve literacy rates, meet basic needs, and encourage parental support. C4C is an option for churches looking for ways to increase their outreach to their local community/mission field.

Adapted, West Virginia Annual Conference

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