"More than half a million students in North Carolina — about 40 percent of all students in the state — attend rural schools, and one in five school-aged rural children is living in poverty. Rural students, particularly those from low-income families, lose substantial ground in literacy during the summer due to diminished access to academic support and enrichment opportunities, which contributes to long-term disparities in educational outcomes.
The Duke Endowment’s Rural Church Summer Literacy Initiative is designed to help United Methodist congregations improve early childhood literacy in North Carolina’s rural communities. The Endowment’s Rural Church program area, which works to strengthen the capacity of churches to serve their communities, has developed and supported the initiative as a measurable, meaningful way for churches to reduce educational inequities and to transform the long-term trajectories of children and families" (Mobilizing Rural Churches to Improve Early Childhood Literacy in North Carolina, a May 2021 report from Summer Literacy, An Initiative of The Duke Endowment)
In 2019 and 2020, ten congregations in the Western NC Conference partnered with the Summer Literacy Initiative to provide six weeks of literacy instruction with enrichment activities, family engagement, meals, and wrap-around services for students and families in North Carolina's rural communities. They are:
- Boone UMC, Watauga County (Appalachian District)
- Brevard First UMC, Transylvania County (Blue Ridge District)
- Central UMC Stanly County (Uwharrie District)
- Cullowhee UMC, Jackson County (Smoky Mountain District)
- East Bend United, seven churches based at East Bend UMC, Yadkin County (Yadkin Valley District)
- Fairview UMC, Davidson County (Yadkin Valley District)
- Monticello UMC, Iredell County (Appalachian District)
- Morning Star UMC, Haywood County (Smoky Mountain District)
- Sparta UMC, Alleghany County (Appalachian District)
- Wilkesboro UMC, Wilkes County (Appalachian District)
The Summer Literacy Initiative released a full report in May 2021 detailing the initiative's growth from supporting programs at only three churches in 2018 to expanding the program to more than a dozen churches in 2019 and 2020.
Summer Literacy is still seeking a small number of thriving churches that are already working with their local schools through Congregations 4 Children-type programming to partner with them in ministry. If you think your church might be a good partner with the Summer Literacy Initiative, or if you have any questions, please reach out to Brian Mateer, WNCC Associate Director of Missional Engagement.
Learn more about The Duke Endowment's Rural Church Program and Summer Literacy Initiative.
Originally published by the Western North Carolina Annual Conference June 23, 2021. Republished with permission by ResourceUMC July 1, 2021.