Fifty Ways #22 — Never Too Late

It’s never too late to recognize hard work. Especially if it involves celebrating the achievement of a milestone like graduation. We did that last Sunday at Western Hills Baptist Church for three high school grads. One of them was Shelby Ferguson. I remember when she was born. Now Shelby is headed to college at Centenary in Louisiana. Her parents Pam and Ray have raised her well. Provided opportunities and encouragement along the way. We’re proud of you Shelby!

You may remember Shelby from our newsletter in 2011. She was a part of a team that provided beginning home libraries to families in Eagle Pass. Do you remember Shelby’s reflections about that trip?

Shelby then and now--large print

The youth that she overheard talking about low literacy skills have not had the advantages so many take for granted. I wonder if either of those girls will be walking across a stage this spring? Let’s hope that seeds planted in Eagle Pass and elsewhere through Books for the Border and Beyond will impact future graduations in Texas and elsewhere.

Celebrate graduates. Pat them on the back. Pray for them. Ask them about their plans for the future. Plant seeds for future graduations.

We have been blessed to be a blessing…

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Fifty Ways #11 — Would it be OK, if?

In a recent conversation with a dear soul who is planning a major back to school event for hundreds of children, that question came up. Would it be OK, if? If we modified the Books for the Border and Beyond design for bookcases? The answer was YES, of course. In this case, a crate from Home Depot will be used to get books to children in a way that provides some permanent storage.

The original design was developed to address the need to give books a secure place in homes that sometimes lack solid floors – in these United States. I’ve been in homes in Texas along the border with Mexico that have dirt floors. So a bookcase provides some security for treasured books – including school texts – in such locations.

colonia family with books

In the six years since the first bookcases were shared with families in Eagle Pass, more than three thousand families have received beginning home libraries. The bookcases have differed in construction methods; some have actually been bookshelves. One junior high principal recently suggested using discarded pickle buckets as homes for books. Imagine the possibilities…

 pickle bucket

The point is to fit the container to the need. On the list of 50 Ways Your Church Can Bless Your Community Through Literacy, #11 is Adapt the family reading fair concept in other settings where families lack books at home. That certainly includes adapting the container.

One suggestion: As much as possible include the families who will take the container home in the decoration (and/or manufacture) of the bookcase, bookshelf, or pickle bucket. This personalizes the home library and adds an element of fun to the family reading fair. See other suggestions on the Literacy Connexus website for hosting a family reading fair.

And I still love the bookcases…

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50 Ways #11–Sharing Books

Adapt the family reading fair concept in other settings where families lack books at home.

What, then, is the family reading fair concept?  It is simply sharing books with children who lack books at home in the best way possible.  In some settings, it means families receiving a new bookcase and bags of new and used books.  In other settings, it is just one new book.  Just one. 

The family reading fair concept

Ashley Magers is a student at the North East campus of Tarrant Community College in Hurst, Texas.  She is president of Psi Beta, a service club under the direction of Shewanda Riley (Literacy Connexus board member).  Last Saturday Ashley and two other students sorted books at the Literacy Connexus book bank at Western Hills Baptist Church in Fort Worth.  They left with six hundred books for distribution at an elementary school in Grapevine, Texas.  Last year the group distributed 800 books at an elementary school in Haltom City.  Ashley recalled the excitement of the children who received the books, who were delighted when told they got to keep them!

School children with books to keep!

School children with books to keep!

LaVerne Moore volunteers at WestAid – a food pantry in Fort Worth.  She and her husband have a passion for sharing books.  They search out books to give to families who come to WestAid looking for food:  something for the soul as well as the stomach.

Carol Prevost is a retired educator in Chattanooga, Tennessee, and former Literacy Connexus board member.  Her idea to share books helped spark Books for the Border several years ago. Now she leads her church to collect books for distribution at a local homeless shelter.

According to RIF (Reading is Fundamental):  Two-thirds of America’s children living in poverty have no books at home, and the number of families living in poverty is on the rise.  Many public and school libraries are being forced to close or reduce their operating hours.  Children who do not have access to books and do not read regularly are among the most vulnerable Americans.

Picking out books at a Hunger Fair

Picking out books at a Hunger Fair

The Literacy Connexus website provides guidelines for sharing and sorting used books.  Our hope is that you will find ways in your community to share books with children at risk.  And share those ways with us, please.

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Thank you!

Saying thank you is important for anyone who receives a gift—especially a not-for-profit organization.  More than just being polite, there are tax implications. So, thank you to all who support Literacy Connexus through your donations and other support.

Some gifts are monetary; others in-kind (a fancy word for things used in doing one’s work).  In the last week many books have been donated for Books for the Border and Beyond.  This is one of the most important in-kind gifts we receive.  The books go to one of three book banks affiliated with Literacy Connexus.  Donated books are sorted by volunteers and shared with families lacking books at home.

At the world-wide headquarters for Literacy Connexus (4802 Hwy. 377 S, Fort Worth) I am sitting at a desk donated by a company going out of business.  Someone donated the chair I’m sitting on.

Bookcase Stack

Can you spot the donations?

I am using software made available by Tech Soup at a greatly reduced price through Microsoft.  The lateral file cabinet to my right and the bookcase behind me were donated by United Way when they moved to new offices.  The list is long for those kinds of gifts.  Thank you!

But Literacy Connexus really lives in volunteers serving through churches in the cities and towns across Texas.  A couple of years ago we learned that each week in Texas more than 10,000 adults from 88 countries learn English through the efforts of 1,500 plus volunteers.  This past weekend volunteers trained new teachers in three cities.  These 75 new teachers have returned to their churches with clear ideas about how to prepare lessons and make learning fun.  Thank you Robin Feistel, Martha McDade, Connie Anthony, Karen Peiser, Ella Moore, Carol Coburn, Dora Parnell, Blenda Wilson, Elsa Romero, and Beth Avery for your dedication to teaching English with excellence.  Thank you teachers everywhere for you service to persons seeking to learn English.

This blog will be launched on the Literacy Connexus website as a part of the ongoing work of Pam Moore.  Thank you for three years of dedicated service.

Thank you, Literacy Connexus board members:  Caroline Bell, Lynda Bertram, Kathy Cervantes, Lyle Crossley,  Larry Floyd, and Shewanda Riley.  From cleaning up trash along the highway to reviewing tax returns and donating to the cause, your service is much appreciated.

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And thanks to all who pray for the work of Literacy Connexus.  It matters.

Lester

“Controlled Chaos”

Calvary Lutheran Church of Richland Hills, TX recently blessed families in El Cenizo with books and bookcases.

Said one mother:

“I had to physically take that Bible away from my kids at 10:30 last night so they could go to sleep. It’s the first Bible my family has ever had.”

El Cenizo, TX Family Reading Fair

El Cenizo, TX Family Reading Fair

Read the whole story!

Summer Time

We’ve had a great summer so far.

Presidio3

In June, Lakeshore Drive Baptist Church in Weatherford blessed families in Presidio with bookcases, books, and basketball. Three 90-minute sessions of basketball and a 3-on-3 tournament. Teachers at the local school, parents, and the children themselves, all appreciated the 15-20 books given to each child. The kids loved decorating their own bookcases!

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Four more family reading fairs are in the planning stages for this fall, at other locations along the border.

Throughout June and July, we gave some  books to Agape Baptist Church in Cleburne as they provide meals and day camp activities to children in their community. We were amazed at the level of care and teaching the leaders of that program provided for seven straight weeks.

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We’re excited about 11 ESL teacher training workshops across the state coming this fall.

Next on the agenda is the Literacy Texas Annual Conference.

RAs and GAs Build Bookcases

Girls and boys at Camp Copass, Denton, TX built 31 bookcases and donated hundreds of books for underprivileged children last week. Check out our photos!

Read With Me!

You are invited to participate in the Family Reading Fair next Thursday, May 3rd, at Western Hills Primary.

We’ll need help sharing books and bookcases with 130 families whose children make up the Pre-K classes at this school.

We also need volunteers to read to the children and help the families to navigate the experience.

We’re expecting 600 participants and will be giving away thousands of books to go in the bookcases built and painted by volunteers.

You can help or just observe. Either way, we’ll be glad to see you!

We’re asking volunteers/observers to arrive by 4:00 pm.

Contact us with any questions.

We’re looking forward to seeing you!

Click here to RSVP so that we can prepare a name tag for you.

Building Bookcases in Corpus Christi–WMU Annual Meeting

Moving Toward a Library in Every Home

More than 1,200 families have received beginning home libraries in the past five years through church-based family reading fairs under the Books for the Border banner.  Books for the Border began in seven Texas counties identified as among the twenty poorest counties in the United States.

Books for the Border is now in phase two:  Books for the Border and Beyond.  Following Together for Hope’s Objective Two:

Churches, organizations, mission groups, and individual volunteers who participate in TFH efforts in the focal counties will gain a greater awareness of our biblical mandate with the poor and will be able and willing to implement what they have learned with the poor in their home communities.   (www.ruralpoverty.net)

Family reading fairs have been hosted in a variety of such communities beyond the Texas-Mexico Border, including Amarillo, Dallas, Joshua, Lubbock, and San Antonio.  Others are planned for Copperas Cove, Corpus Christi and Fort Worth this year.

A reading fair in your community would involve identifying families in your community, getting a bookshelf pattern from Literacy ConneXus, building them, collecting and buying age appropriate books and holding the actual fair to distribute the books and bookcases.  A project outline is available in the Books for the Border Planning Guide.

Significantly, literacy projects including books and bookcases or bookshelves have been held in other Together for Hope venues in Alabama, Arkansas, Florida, Kentucky, North Carolina, and South Carolina.

But what happened recently causes me to try to capture my thoughts now.  Karen Morrow – CBF missionary to refugees in Texas – and I sat with three Karen refugees and three members of Agape Baptist Church in Fort Worth looking for common ground between the real need for language skills of children entering kindergarten in American schools and the linguistic heritage and skills of that ethnic group.  (See http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Karen_people)

Karen and I have both just completed reading When Helping Hurts (http://www.whenhelpinghurts.org/). Chapter Five provides an excellent explanation of asset mapping.  Implementing this idea, beginning with recognition of the gifts and talents of the group, was a challenge with language differences–to say nothing of cultural differences.  We were wondering how home libraries (ala Books for the Border) might fit in the context of Karen families living in Texas.  We did not leave with clarity so much as commitment to begin with what we learned of the desire of these brave people to preserve their language while gaining English.  We will walk with them to discover how to use the Karen love for their children and the valuable gifts of volunteers who stretch to help in ways that do not hurt.

Literacy Connexus seeks to work with those who recognize the value of placing libraries in every home—especially for those living in poverty.  Children who are read to, who see their parents reading, and who grow up in homes with books are more ready for kindergarten.   What about your community?

A workshop session entitled A Library in Every Home will be offered at the Metroplex Literacy Conference in Dallas March 10 (See http://hopeliteracy.com/).  For additional information about ways to encourage and equip ESL students to read to their children, contact Lester Meriwether,  817-696-9898/Lester@literacyconnexus.org.