Two summers ago we were invited to be a host site for eight 20-minute read-alouds for parents and their children 8 and younger. Our pastors and teachers read two books and afterwards each child picked a brand new book to keep. We supplied the space and the readers. The books and lesson plans were provided to us by The Children’s Reading Foundation via a federal grant. We averaged 70+ attendees a week. We were welcome to use that platform to announce our VBS, Sunday School, Camp etc. We frequently tucked bookmarks inside the books inviting families to know us better. This year the grant dollars were gone for our region, but the opportunity to reach our community was one we wanted to continue. We approached The Children’s Reading Foundation and they allowed us to continue to use their lesson plans and program name even though we would provide our own books.
We got our books by volunteering in a Scholastic Warehouse. Scholastic hosts two sales a year, one in December and one in June. They pay volunteers $10 an hour in books. We ask members and friends of our congregation to volunteer and split what they earn with us and their own family. The majority of the books are half off the cover price and they customarily have a room where you can fill a box for $25. That Build a Box section is a rich opportunity to get a lot of books for the least amount of money. They also have coupons for $25 off $100 purchases that can be used with volunteer hours. Our warehouse is an hour away so we carpool with a minivan full of folks and have done very, very well.
We also purchased Arch books last season when they were half off and included them in the selection. During VBS week we declared it to be Bonus Week – each child left with 2 books, and one was an Arch book.
This year we were the only host site in town, but because of our connections to the CRF, the school district advertised for us. We averaged 113 people per week and hosted a total of 903 people through the course of the summer. Many of those children and families have followed up, attending our VBS, signing up for our ELC and for our Power-Hour program. It is exciting to be developing a positive reputation in our community. Who should care more about literacy than Christian people whose God calls Himself the Word?