Church provides summer reading program for its neighbors

A First UMC Paragould volunteer helps families choose school supplies. Participants in the church’s summer reading program, among others, attended a special back-to-school kick-off event that included school supplies, outdoor activities, a community meal and a blessing of the backpacks. COURTESY PHOTO

A First UMC Paragould volunteer helps families choose school supplies. Participants in the church’s summer reading program, among others, attended a special back-to-school kick-off event that included school supplies, outdoor activities, a community meal and a blessing of the backpacks.
COURTESY PHOTO

As First UMC Paragould members Angela Newby and Danielle Honeycutt came to the end of a Bible study they had taken together, they realized what they had learned challenged them—and the church—to make a difference in their community.

Both teachers in the local school district, they knew that a free summer reading program could provide much-needed support for students in the church’s neighborhood. Working with their schools, Newby and Honeycutt identified children who could benefit most from a little extra help over the summer break, and “Ready, Set, Read” was born.

Some of the children already were connected with First UMC Paragould, but the majority came from outside the church. Ready, Set, Read opened each morning with everyone hearing a story, then reading in smaller groups. At lunch, they worked on table manners. Then, after some play time, they had one more session of reading instruction before riding home in the church van.

Church members helped with small group reading and with preparing and serving lunch. When the week of Vacation Bible School arrived, the students joined in VBS activities in the mornings and attended Ready, Set, Read in the afternoons.

To cap off the summer, the church filled its lawn with free activities, and a space inside with free school supplies. Children and parents chose the supplies they needed, first picking out a backpack, then filling it with items on the appropriate school supply list. Many stayed for dinner, then a quick worship service that included a blessing of the backpacks.

First UMC Paragould hopes to maintain relationships with Ready, Set, Read participants through the school year to help them in other ways.

—submitted by Karole Risker