March 2 was national Read Across America Day, also known as Dr. Seuss Day. It is a yearly observance in the inaugurated by the National Education Association on the school day that is nearest to 2 March, Dr. Seuss’s birthday.
It was also the kick-off day for a big week of reading at Hood UMC in Republic. Over the course of the week, about 15 volunteers read to all of the classes at all five local elementary schools and gave every student a book. The total number of books donated was 2,200, every book was signed with a note of encouragement by a member of Hood UMC.
The ministry was in direct response to the Open Hearts, Open Books initiative that was launched at Annual Conference last year.
“We didn’t know how we would fund it, but we stepped forward in faith to do this with all five schools,” said Rev. Jim Oman, senior pastor at Hood UMC. “I never dreamed we would have so much support. That just shows you have to dream big.”
Rev. Colette Patton, associate pastor at Hood UMC, traveled to a Scholastic book sale in St. Louis and was able to purchase books at a discount. The church was awarded two grants for the project, a Costner-Fulton grant for mission and a grant from the Missouri United Methodist Foundation. Because the cost was less and the support was more than they anticipated, they are considering how they may be able to potentially expand the program into neighboring rural schools.
The volunteers had a great time. One of the readers, Cathie Coggin, taught second grade at Sweeny Elementary for 20 years and enjoyed the
opportunity to interact with children there again. Brian Gipson, an engineering manager for Boyd Aluminum in Springfield, enjoyed taking a morning off of work to read to the students.
“Both of my daughters have gone to school here,” he said.
Volunteer reader Karen Settle remembers the impact books had on her when she was a child and is happy to be able to share that with a new generation of readers.
“My favorite thing growing up was the Scholastic book order forms we would get in school,” she said.
For more about how your church can engage in Open Hearts, Open Books, go to www.openheartsopenbooks.org.