Reading with meaning

Mission: Literacy teaches reading and Scripture

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Nearly 68 percent of eighth graders in the U.S. read below the proficient level and approximately one quarter are unable to read at even the most basic level, according to the National Assessment of Educational Progress. One of the major reasons students drop out of school is tied to low reading achievement level, as cited by the Alliance for Excellent Education.

Since its inception in January 2006, The Salvation Army’s Mission: Literacy program has become recognized as an effective tool in teaching children reading skills and Scripture at the same time.

Mission: Literacy is a multicultural literacy curriculum proven to raise children’s reading skills as they learn 30 Bible stories. Each 28-page storybook has full-color illustrations that draw the reader into the story, with texts  vetted by the Nida Institute for Biblical Scholarship, an arm of the American Bible Society.

The program is designed for the nonprofessional reading tutor, providing easy-to-follow lesson plans for each Bible story. Its target audience is children struggling at a first to third grade reading level.

Lori Mission, a literacy tutor from the Columbus West Mound Corps in Ohio, noticed a significant change in one of her students.

“Brenda did not used to enjoy reading, but when learning to read helped to answer her questions about God, reading took on a whole new meaning to her,” Mission said. “Not only does Brenda now understand the concept of the existence and person of God, but this program has provided enough of a basis in terms she can understand for her to accept Jesus into her heart and to share what she has learned with her friends.”

Over the past six years, the children in the program have consistently improved their reading skills. Children receiving at least 16 tutoring sessions have an average increase of seven points on the curriculum’s pre/post test scores––roughly equivalent to half of a grade level.

Major Kathy Foster, now retired, also noticed a substantial change in one of the young students involved in the program.

“David, would often misbehave because he did not like to read,” Foster said. “Now, it is difficult to restrain him from grabbing the book because he can’t wait for his turn to read. David’s spiritual growth is evidenced daily. There is no doubt that David is not just becoming literate in English, but also in the Word of God.”

The program has now expanded to over 1,500 Salvation Army personnel spanning 40 states where over 4,000 children have participated in Mission: Literacy. It is also being used in Australia and New Zealand, and by summer missionaries in Kenya, Ghana and the Marshall Islands.

Major Jan Hendrickson, Mission: Literacy coordinator for the Central Territory, said the program is truly “reaching hearts and changing lives one word at a time.”