Mission: Literacy

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Salvation Army and American Bible Society attack illiteracy.

by Sherry McWhorter, Major –

Did you know that low-income children average 2.5 grade levels behind in reading by the end of fifth grade? That means that many of the kids that The Salvation Army sees daily are struggling in school. Consequently, these young people have a high likelihood of dropping out in high school, not to mention becoming involved in gangs and anti-social behaviors. They will go on to raise families in poverty, just as they are now. The Salvation Army is doing something to interrupt this cycle.

Enter Mission: Literacy. This program—designed by the American Bible Society—provides instruction that improves children’s reading skills while they discover God’s Word. This multicultural program uses Bible stories designed for struggling readers. Originally aimed at elementary school students, the program works well with adults who lack basic reading skills and is also effective in teaching English as a second language. Outcome measures show that 89 percent of students show improvement in reading skills, school grades and behavior.

The American Bible Society presented Mission: Literacy to The Salvation Army’s New Jersey Division in order to “get it to the streets.” Already implemented in sites in the Eastern Territory, Mission: Literacy is making its debut in the West. For the first time, a territory as a whole is initiating a widespread attack on one of the basic causes of poverty in America—the inability to read.

Recently, 14 corps in the Southwest Division gathered in Phoenix, Ariz., for initial training, led by Dawn Sharp, divisional child care and literacy consultant for the New Jersey Division. The workshop attendees will now implement the program locally. While Southwest is leading the charge in this territory, interested corps in other divisions are also signing up.

The expenses are minimal. Readers, games and other materials are supplied to corps for the price of shipping—no purchase costs. Sites do simple pre-tests to identify children in need and then work with the kids in small groups, reporting progress to the American Bible Society. Mission: Literacy provides a like between after-school programs and Silvercrest residents or corps members. The students (children and adults) learn to read and get to know Christ at the same time. What better way for people to participate in ministry in action!

To learn more about Mission: Literacy, contact Major Sherry McWhorter at Territorial Headquarters: email Sherry.McWhorter@usw.salvationarmy.org or phone (562) 491-8326.

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