By Martha Alewine
A God-sized vision. A Conference-wide mission. A dream for all South Carolina children and their families.
In the spring, Bishop Jonathan Holston asked all South Carolina United Methodists to accept and meet his God-sized vision of stamping out illiteracy in our state. The Million Book Effort was born and focused on children ages 3 years through third grade.
What a difference the books collected prior to the 2014 Annual Conference will make in the lives of those children to whom the books will be (have been) given. For some children, the books they receive from the Million Book Effort may be the only books they have in their homes. All of us can be proud of that accomplishment, especially knowing that books are still being donated. The excitement surrounding the donation and collection of books is still tangible across our state.
We recently read of the Bishop’s new challenge: One Million Hours of Reading. This is not an impossible goal, but it will require each of us to accept the challenge and work through our local church to establish, or enhance, partnerships with the local schools. One million hours of reading equals approximately 833 hours of reading in every school in the state. Child development centers, primary schools, elementary schools and middle schools are always asking for volunteer readers, so we could use that as an open invitation to contact the schools in our communities to be a volunteer reader.
Fighting illiteracy is imperative, so we have to move beyond giving books to individual students and beyond read-aloud activities to finding ways of improving the literacy environment in our schools. Holston has encouraged all districts to keep the Million Book Effort alive and growing. The Greenwood District has adopted this literacy initiative as its 2014-15 mission emphasis.
The focal points for the district mission project are 1) expanding the scope of the Million Book Effort to include all grades, pre-kindergarten through twelfth, and 2) providing books for the school libraries. Directing books to the library book collections will provide new books for recreational reading and books for informational reading. Both of which are emphasized in our state academic standards.
Contributing books to school libraries is important because:
1. Sixty years of research have consistently documented the positive effect on student achievement when students have access to up-to-date books for recreational and for informational reading.
2. Books donated to the school library will be available for all students and all teachers to use for reading and for research.
3. Books contributed to the school library have a longer “life” than books given to individuals or to classroom collections.
4. Books contributed to the school library are selected to be age and developmentally appropriate and to support the instructional program of the school.
5. Recent statistics from South Carolina school libraries show that: a) not all school library book collections are up-to-date; b) many school libraries receive little if any district/local funding for program development or book purchases; and c) the State of South Carolina provides no funding to school libraries for program development or book purchases.
For these reasons the Greenwood District is working with Follett School Solutions to sponsor a statewide fall fundraiser, TitleWish, which will run for the entire month of September.
This online fundraiser will provide an opportunity for individuals, churches, small groups (e.g., Sunday school classes, United Methodist Men, United Methodist Women’s circles, United Methodist Youth Fellowship), community groups, etc., to donate to a particular school through a secure online donation system.
At the end of the fundraiser, every school that received donations will receive a voucher from Follett School Solutions for the amount donated plus a 10 percent contribution from Follett. The voucher will be used by the school librarian to purchase new fiction and non-fiction books to encourage students’ reading for recreation and for information.
All books ordered by school librarians through the TitleWish campaign will be ready for students to checkout as soon as the books are delivered. The books will also have labels indicating they were contributed through the Million Book Effort. All books will be drop-shipped by Follett to the receiving schools, so all handling and processing will be done by Follett School Solutions.
School librarians and principals across South Carolina will receive information about this fundraising event from Follett so they may publicize the TitleWish campaign in their communities. Each school will have a unique Web link that can be placed on their school’s webpage to facilitate ease of donation by their potential donors.
The Greenwood District invites all churches to participate in this new phase of the Million Book Effort.
To make a donation to help local schools through TitleWish, go to http://www.titlewish.com/ and enter your school name, zip code or merely “Greenwood” to find the local campaign. You can also click “learn more” on the top right of that page to help your particular school start a campaign. Once you find the campaign, click on it and make the donation. If there is no campaign specified but you still wish to make a donation, do note that all schools in your general zip code area will share in donations made from your zip code.
Additional information will be available on the Greenwood District website at http://greenwood.umcsc.org/home/ or by calling the district office at 864-223-2650.
One million books! One million hours of reading! Can we donate one million dollars to school libraries? That may sound like a lot of money, but 1,200 schools sharing $1 million equals just $833.33 per school—not a lot of money when you think of it in terms of individual schools.
Just as the books given to individual children through the initial phase of the Million Book Effort may be the only books those children have, so too the money contributed to school libraries through the Million Book TitleWish Campaignmay be the only money available to purchase new books that will be available to all children in a school.
To quote a children’s favorite cartoon character, Bob the Builder, “Can we do it?”
South Carolina United Methodists respond, “Yes, we can!”
Martha Alewine is the chair of the One Million Book Committee for the Greenwood District. She currently works as the district administrative assistant. Previously she was the State Consultant for School Libraries for the South Carolina Department of Education. Martha can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.