Small Town Church Makes Big Difference with Literacy
By Roy Manard
A small church in an even smaller town is making a big difference for some Cass County elementary students. Douglassville UMC’s “We Love All God’s Children” initiative collects books for distribution at nearby schools and a Texas CASA facility.
“Back in January, I went to our UMC North District training, and I had the opportunity to talk to teachers,” says the Rev. Bobby Horn, the Douglassville pastor who has organized this effort. “I was shocked to find out how many students in elementary school don’t have access to books at home. Not having books at an early age really puts them behind other students. So we looked for a way for us as a church to help.”
Yet church isn’t very big—just 30 or so worshipers on a typical Sunday morning, Horn said.
“Our whole town is only about 250 people,” he said. “We’re just an old country church—sometimes we get the feeling we’re too small to have a real impact.”
But it doesn’t take much to change a child’s life, he realized. Sometimes, the right book at the right time can do just that.
And as the National Education Association points out, it’s important to have books in the home—not just at school.
“The more types of reading materials there are in the home, the higher students are in reading proficiency, according to the Educational Testing Service,” the NEA reports. “The Educational Testing Services reported that students who do more reading at home are better readers and have higher math scores…”
So Douglassville UMC started collecting books to take to local schools in the Atlanta (Texas) Independent School District, which serves the smaller town.
“We’re collecting all kinds of titles—early readers, from Curious George to Magic School Bus, to books about superheroes for the older kids,” said Horn. “We’ve had some science-related books come in. Anything—we’ll find a home for it.”
Church members began with their own book collections.
“And we’re hitting yard sales and resale shops and thrift stores,” said Horn. “It’s nice to find books in those places because they’re a little less expensive and that lets us get more books into more students’ hands.”
Occasionally, a title will come in that is more appropriate for older teens; a church member with a connection to Texas CASA’s Elijah House facility for girls has put Douglassville UMC in touch with them and suggested that it might appreciate some donated books.
Elijah’s House Safe Haven Emergency Shelter is a nearby facility that provides temporary shelter for up to 24 girls, ages 5-17 years old.
The first delivery to Atlanta Elementary School was 57 books, with another 25 to Elijah’s House. A second delivery could go out this week, with more than 100 titles.
“I think this project has helped us realize that our town is our mission field,” said Horn. “Church is more than going to a service on Sunday morning; it’s taking what you hear and going out and doing something. I think having success with this ministry will encourage us all to do more.”