Some children just beam. Blessing is one such child and I believe the future will be bright for her. I met Blessing last Sunday, when I joined members of my synagogue, Shaarei Shamayim (Gates of Heaven), help children at Christ the Solid Rock Baptist church work on their reading while their parents attended church. Here is blessing introducing herself and telling us what she is grateful for.
Christ the Solid Rock’s pastor is Everett Mitchell, a strong spiritual and community leader who is also an attorney. His sense of justice is so strong that he is currently running for judge. A couple of years ago, Shaarei Shamayim’s rabbi, Laurie Zimmerman and Pastor Mitchell agreed that our two communities could benefit from getting to know each other better and one way to do that was to help his church members’ children read.
First, we helped the church raise funds for a small children’s library and assisted them with setting it up. Once the library was set up, we have provided volunteers to read with the children. I had previously participated in the church dinner/fundraiser, but this past Sunday was the first time I volunteered in the reading program, and I am very glad I did.
Blessing was the first child in the library. Not only did she beam, but although she wanted to play games, she was easily redirected and sat in my lap to read. She is a good reader, and already knows her colors in Spanish as well as English which I thought was pretty impressive for a 5 year old kindergartner.
Of course, not all the children read so willingly. After playing some word games in the large group, we divided into age groups and I worked with the 3rd grade children. One boy was pretty fidgety and did not want to read. Given my special education advocacy background, I suspected that he might have a learning disability, so when it was his turn to read, I read to him. But on his next turn, I decided to challenge him and told him that I didn’t think he could read. He insisted that he could read. So, I asked him to show me. Sure enough, my challenge worked. He could read.
After our session was over, many church members were out in the hallway. One member greeted me with a warm hug and made me feel very welcome.
While I cannot predict the future, I have a strong feeling that Blessing will go far. Not only does she beam, but she is embraced by a community which values its children. I am glad that my community is doing its small part to build connections and support children like Blessing.
For more information on how I can help you accomplish effective, progressive systems change contact Jeff Spitzer-Resnick by visiting his website: Systems Change Consulting.