By Sonya Sidoriak Hitt
At our parish we are blessed to have as our priest’s wife, Lydia Westerberg, who is a professional librarian. She has helped us build up a wonderful parish library of religious and spiritual materials for all ages.
Some six years ago, Matushka Lydia brought to the Church School the idea of having a Lenten Read-a-thon. During Great Lent, students would set a goal of a specific number of minutes to read each day from religious books of their choice. To offer encouragement, each student would select an adult “book buddy” who would agree to also read, and who would check with the student periodically to inquire how the reading was coming along and share thoughts on some of the material that had been read.
The idea was enthusiastically received by the teachers, the students and their families. A successful Lenten Read-a-thon has occurred each year since.
The following are guidelines on how our Read-a-thon is conducted.
A Timeline for Conducting an Effective Reading Program
for Church School Children during Great Lent
Goal: To encourage children to learn more about their faith through reading.
To encourage children to use the church library as a source of religious reading and research.
To help children improve their reading skills.
To allow children and adults to give encouragement and support to each other in a team effort as they work toward a common goal.
Preparation: The coordinator considers the number of participants and gathers adequate and appropriate religious books in the church library to provide materials for all, i.e. the Bible, Lives of the Saints, Old Testament readings, Parables, other suitable religious material.
Step 1 - On the Sunday before Forgiveness Sunday, an announcement is made that a special children’s meeting will be held on the following Sunday to receive the Lenten Read-a-thon materials. A Read-a-thon chart with names of the students entered is posted on the wall. The goal is 100% participation of all church school students.
Step 2 - On Forgiveness Sunday, children receive their Read-a-thon chart from the previous year. This is useful in helping them set a lenten effort goal in reading minutes for 2007. They will record this new goal on their new chart. On this day, each child will select their adult book buddy who will encourage him/her. The book buddy will also read and check that both have appropriate and enough religious reading material to get through each week. The book buddy will help the reader check out and return library books correctly.
If a student is absent on this Sunday, information will be mailed to the home.
Step 3 - The coordinator will recruit adults to be book buddies, assign some, if necessary, and make sure that the buddy understands his/her responsibility to the young reader. The adult book buddy will also keep account of his/her own reading minutes.
Step 4 - Mid-Lent The book buddy will check the child’s chart to see that the minutes are being recorded properly and regularly.
Step 5 - The Lenten Read-a-thon ends on Holy Saturday. Both reader and buddy will tally all minutes and bring their charts to church on Bright Monday.
Step 6 - Reading charts are turned in to the coordinator on Bright Monday. The minutes are recorded on the wall poster by the coordinator. The adult book buddy can add matching minutes to the reader’s minutes up to a maximum of 20 hours.
Step 7 - A participation certificate and a small gift are presented to each reader at the end of the program. Recognition is given to participating adults.
To achieve success with this program, it is important for the coordinator to be well organized. Do not underplan, as contact time with the students is usually very short.
Examples of informational material included with this article are:
- the Read-a-thon chart.
- 2) the student and book buddy Sign-Up Sheet.
- a letter to the book buddy detailing his/her responsibilities.
- a letter to the book buddy midway through Great Lent.
- the final Read-a-thon chart with the minutes listed.
Sonya Sidoriak Hitt is the Church School Coordinator at Holy Transfiguration Church, New Haven, CT. E-mail contact: firstname.lastname@example.org