Julie Baker-Fink Keynote Address and Q&A
In her keynote address to the Texas Annual Conference, Julie Baker-Fink, President of the Barbara Bush Literacy Foundation, challenged the Conference with the great needs of Texas children along with clear direction on how to best help them.
According to Baker-Fink, Texas is consistently ranked one of nation’s worst states for children. One in four children live in poverty. Sixty percent of Texas students receive free or reduced fee lunches. The great news, Baker-Fink asserts is that the devastating impact of childhood poverty can be minimized or negated entirely if those children receive the support they need. “There is no smarter investment in our resources than helping children learn to read,” said Baker-Fink.
Ways Churches Can Help:
We sat down with Baker-Fink for a post-Conference interview in which she provided a wealth of information for churches as we, as a Conference, invest in Bishop Scott Jones’s “We Love All God’s Children” initiative.
Q: How can churches make sure all young children have access to better childcare?
A: One way is to advocate for increased quality in standards. There are more than 1,000 licensed childcare providers in the state of Texas, but the quality of that care ranges significantly. Many of them are very low in quality.
A second option is to increase the number of early childhood spaces available. Churches already involved in early childhood care could increase the number of children they are able to serve, and consider how to provide scholarships for low-income families who can’t afford quality childcare.
Q: How can we help kids who have missed that valuable early childhood window catch up?
A: Children who come in behind are not a lost cause. What it really requires is more time and more resources. We have to create safety nets to help kids accelerate. What we want to do is give a child more than one year of learning over the course of one year’s instruction. We do this through:
These are all things churches can do through volunteers. There is clear evidence that when kids get the support they need, they can catch up.
Q: When it comes to impact over the summer, what are some of your favorite ideas?
If it is a high school kid, he or she might feel they have to go to work instead of school, or perhaps they are being bullied, or tired, or need a clean uniform. Churches can have a conversation and see how they can help.
Q: We know that Hispanic families are deeply concerned about their children’s education. Pew Research Center published results of a recent survey that revealed immigration is not the number one issue for US Hispanics; They are most concerned about their children’s education. Some of these families struggle to fully participate in their children’s education because of language barriers. How can our churches come alongside these parents and support them in helping their kids learn to read?
Also, there are some great family literacy programs that allow the parents to learn alongside the child. It is a two-for-one impact. This is why Mrs. Bush chose family literacy. She saw the value of having that experience and bond that is shared between a parent and child as they read together.