Top 10: I Make Kids Cry
Top 10 “Most Opened” Blog Posts of 2019: # 10
By Michael Jeter
Sometimes part of my job is making kids cry.
No, it’s not in my job description, but making kids cry comes with the territory of overseeing STARS Book Clubs, a mentoring and literacy initiative focused on empowering members of churches in Waco to serve the schools around them. My latest victim was Jose.
For several weeks, Jose and David, two second-grade boys, had been participating in a STARS Book Club. Their mentor, a stay-at-home mom, would come to their school once a week during their lunchtime, where they’d talk, eat, and practice reading books aloud together.
“I’m sorry buddy, but your mentor can’t come to Book Club today- her son is sick,” I told Jose, as he chose between chicken nuggets and burritos in the cafeteria lunch line.
I didn’t really think it would be that big a deal if Jose missed a week – he had only recently started Book Club, and I doubted he even remembered his mentor’s name. However, as I saw his face scrunch up as he (unsuccessfully) tried to hold back tears, it hit me again: We rarely realize just how much a caring, consistent adult can impact a child.
Research has shown that every child needs at least one stable, committed, supportive adult in their life to end up doing well, and the children of our city are no exception. Many students in Waco are facing serious challenges, from poverty and parent incarceration to bullying and depression. A Book Club mentor coming every week who believes in you, laughs with you and encourages you can be a much-needed emotional support for many students. For others, the chance in Book Club to grow in reading ability, reading confidence, and a love of reading is just the help they need.
That help isn’t just a nice thing to do- it’s a crucial intervention as our nation, state and city are in a serious literacy crisis. Two-thirds of all fourth-graders can’t read on grade level. Third-grade students who can’t read on level are four times more likely to drop out of high school, and if they’re also in poverty, they’re 13 times more likely to drop out. Without a high school diploma, the probability of everything from future incarceration to joblessness skyrockets. Even for those who manage their way through high school, a poor reading foundation limits chances of further education or training, good employment, and a living wage.
In the face of these statistics, we’re seeing an unprecedented movement of 600 people from 35 churches in Waco joining together to serve the students of our city through Book Clubs! And as we and local businesses and organizations add our efforts to all that teachers and parents are doing, we are starting to see reading scores improve and brighter futures open up for hundreds of students. Currently our Book Club volunteers meet with more than 1,400 students in Waco every week, another 200 Highland Baptist volunteers read one-on-one with students every week, and hundreds of other volunteers from our city are serving students through similar initiatives. (To financially sustain this amazing growth of Book Clubs, we’re holding a fundraising Gala on April 29th– we’d love to see you there!)
In the Bible, the book of James says, “Show me your faith without deeds, and I will show you my faith by my deeds” (James 2:18b). Volunteers across Waco are putting their faith in action through Book Clubs, loving their neighbors by helping them to succeed in school and in life. So yes, sometimes I have to bear bad news that will make kids cry, but it’s far outweighed by the joy of seeing greater equity, opportunity and hope grow in the next generation of our city.
Michael Jeter works for the STARS Mentoring Project at Antioch Community Church. He is a Virginia native who found the kind of community in Waco that’s caused him to make this city home for almost a decade. He and his wife and daughter are excited to meet their newest addition to their family next month!
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