Church delivers books to children in community and reads to them online
By Lindsay Peyton
Reading is fundamental at Pattison UMC – to such a great extent that the church’s slogan is “We Love All God’s Children through Reading.” This small church in Waller County is making a big impact on the lives of area children — providing them with books and inspiring them to fall in love with learning.
Pattison UMC’s commitment to reading is not something that coronavirus can stop, senior pastor Rev. Sharon Sabom explained. “COVID-19 just put us on a temporary vacation,” she said.
In fact, she started to read a book for children on the church’s Facebook page on Sunday, April 5. “I grabbed all the stuffed animals I could find, and placed them where the kids would normally sit,” she said.
Now, children can access the Storytime whenever is convenient. “If you need a bedtime story or anytime story, it will be there,” Sabom said.
Pattison UMC reads both to the young and the young at heart. Volunteers read to seniors, and a team heads to the Early Childhood Campus of Royal ISD every week to help foster literacy in young students. In the course of a month, they read to about 800 children.
In February, Pattison delivered $1,400 worth of books to the Early Childhood Campus. Sabom explained that the church’s fall fundraiser was dedicated to the cause.
“We always tithe the proceeds from our fundraiser,” Sabom said.
This year, congregants decided the proceeds would benefit the library at the Early Childhood Campus. “Everyone was in total agreement,” Sabom said. “We asked the librarian to pick out the books that the kids would most enjoy and were most needed.”
Librarian Vera Knutson was thrilled with the assignment – and selected several Spanish and bilingual titles. “The children are going to be so excited to have new books – and books in both languages,” she said. “I can’t thank the church enough for this gift.”
Lee Kosina, the church’s auction chair, and the pastor’s husband David Sabom delivered cartons of books to the school library.
Sabom explained that the reading program at Pattison started in 2016, a couple of years before she was appointed to the church.
The school district had been hit by several flood-related tragedies in the spring, and Pattison UMC asked for ways to help. Before long, the church joined with Brookshire UMC to offer a reading camp.
“It grew into a year-round program,” Sabom said.
Pattison UMC also created the BookWorm Bus, a mobile library that was retrofitted to carry about 1,500 titles, including a number of bilingual editions. Before the virus, the BookWorm Bus was bringing books to children in need. Now, the bus is offering sanitized books to children in the office through social distancing.
When Sabom came to the church, she was excited to see the reading program in the works. In the last church she served, volunteers tutored third graders one-on-one every week.
“We worked with teachers to identify those who needed a little help,” she recalled.
The program was such a success that it was recognized by the school district for improving outcomes. When asked what change made a difference, “the answer was the Methodist church,” Sabom recalled.
She has seen firsthand that spending time with children, reading and providing them with books, can change their trajectory. At Pattison UMC, she added, the program allows church volunteers to serve in a number of different ways.
“It’s everything,” Sabom explained. “It’s outreach. It’s mission. It’s evangelism. It’s a living example of what it means to be a Christian. It’s you presence, witness and service, your heart for the community and those who live in it.”
The church is making a real difference for children in the area. “Being a small church, we had to focus on one thing and do it well,” Sabom said.
Other churches can do the same, she explained, regardless of their size. “It’s only a couple of hours,” she said. “It’s not a huge time commitment, but it’s life-changing for the kids.”
Finding ways to serve the community, even during the coronavirus pandemic, is a learning experience, she added. “We’ve learned how to do church – but we have to learn how to be church,” she said.
Sabom recommends that congregations focus on ways they can still make a difference. “The list of things we can’t do is incredible,” she said.
Instead of being daunted by the list, she says to reflect on Paul’s message: “Rejoice always, pray continually, give thanks in all circumstances; for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.”
“Sometimes, you need to be lifted up,” Sabom said. “You need to rejoice. God is going to be here with us.”
For more information or to make an appointment to get a book, visit www.pattisonchurch.com.