According to recent academic research, “summer slide” is what happens when young minds sit idle for three months and reading achievement is lost. Students who do not read over the summer will lose more than two months of reading progress, say experts.
Emily Murphy, an English/Language Arts teacher at L.S. Rugg Elementary School and a member of First United Methodist Church in Alexandria, wanted to do something to help prevent “summer slide” for the students at her school, who primarily hail from low-income families.
Murphy knew that during the summer, Rugg Elementary’s school library is closed—and many of the school’s 300-plus students often have no way to get to the city’s public library and cannot afford to buy books for themselves. “Although many of these children are avid readers, their parents work several jobs and lack resources and transportation,” said Murphy.
To help stem the tide of “summer slide,” First UMC has created the Good Book Project. Age-appropriate books have been donated and will be distributed to children during the summer through a bookmobile-type trailer that will travel the city’s Garden District near Rugg Elementary. “The students will be given a book at first, and then swap for a new book when finished with that one,” said Murphy.
First UMC has obtained several grants from Louisiana Charity Trust and The Huie Dellmon Fund Trust that funded the purchase of the traveling book trailer. The vehicle will be housed at the church when it is not in use.
In addition to book donations through First UMC’s Seekers Class, books were collected as part of First UMC’s recent “Day of Compassion,” held April 4.
During “Day of Compassion,” church volunteers participated in several outreach projects, including building outside seating for the Volunteers of America; planting flowers at the VOA; mowing grass and trimming trees at Hope House of Central Louisiana, which provides shelter and essential services to homeless women and their children; trash pickup in the city’s Garden District; and book collection for the Good Book project.
“The central teaching Jesus has given us is to love our neighbor as ourselves,” said Rev. Donnie Wilkinson, pastor of First UMC. “Through these projects, we show our love and demonstrate that the way of life Jesus taught us—a life of love and service—is the very best way of life there is.”
On April 15, the Good Book project will be launched with a celebration including First UMC members, Garden District neighborhood residents, and children, parents and faculty from Rugg Elementary.
For more information about the Good Book project, contact Murphy by email at firstname.lastname@example.org, or Clara Woolf, First UMC’s Director of Hospitality and Service, at email@example.com or (318) 443-5696 ext. 106.
Emily Murphy is shown, left, on the steps of Rugg Elementary School with some of the school's students.