Capleville United Methodist Church shares ways to 'engage' local schools through literacy initiatives


Capleville United Methodist Church ministers to local schools through literacy initiatives. (Submitted photos)

By Rev. Autura Eason-Williams
Pastor, Capleville United Methodist Church, Memphis, TN

In 2015, the Memphis and Tennessee Conferences passed a resolution that requires all United Methodist Churches to partner with schools to improve literacy, especially in the early grades. There are lots of ways to engage local schools, but for those churches looking for ideas or that may not know where to start, Capleville United Methodist Church (UMC) started by building a relationship. We became a school adopter for Crump Elementary and began relating to the kids by celebrating birthdays each month during lunch periods. Students and staff look forward to receiving a cupcake during their birthday month.
On Halloween, we invited our local schools to collaborate on a Fall Festival. Crump Elementary’s art teacher did face painting. Other staff manned games tables and provided a trunk for "trunk or treat." Kirby Middle School staff and Power Center Academy High School’s basketball teams served as game volunteers and passed out candy during "trunk or treat." Together we hosted over 400 people for Fall Festival Trunk or Treat!
Capleville UMC was one of three church adopters who helped Crump Elementary put on its recent Feb. 8 Literacy Gala.  We helped decorate, set up and provide a meal for about 125 parents, students and program participants.  We participated in program development by inviting children’s author Dolores Rivers and poet Barbara King to present. King performed a monologue as Harriet Tubman. 
We support literacy in our community through Samaritan Community Reading Project,TechForAll computer ministry, and English as a Second Language classes, so we were invited to be on the Literacy Gala program as presenters.  Samaritan Community Reading Project encourages a love for reading through Spring, Summer and Fall book clubs at East Shelby Library and the distribution of new and used books in Free Libraries and Community Bookcases in our neighborhood. There are currently free libraries and community bookcases in two barbershops and outside of two churches within a one-mile radius of Crump Elementary. TechForAll offers free coding classes for youth and software classes for adults at East Shelby Library and at Capleville UMC. The church's English as a Second Language class started last fall, assisting our growing Latino population with language skills. At the Literacy Gala event, Samaritan Community Reading Project gave away new books to 42 students. 
For more information about how your church can relate to your local schools, we are happy to be a resource, please contact Autura Eason-Williams at Capleville United Methodist Church, 901-363-1859.