• Reading Changes Lives

    An inspiring all-church initiative of the United Church of Christ’s Justice and Witness Ministries.


Reading Changes Lives

Reading Changes Lives, a United Church of Christ all-church initiative, is our denomination's response to the crippling literacy gap in the United States and around the world. Through this year-long effort individuals, congregations, and communities are taking action steps to address this persistent injustice.

We are reminded in 1 Corinthians 12, that we are all part of one body through Christ. When any member of our community suffers, we all suffer. Literacy statistics show that there are children, teenagers and adults who are suffering from illiteracy within our own communities.

If a child cannot read at a proficient level by the 4th grade, there is a 66% chance that he or she will end up in jail or on welfare. Approximately 85% of all juveniles who interface with the juvenile court system are functionally illiterate. In the U.S. 1 in 5 (20%) adults lack reading skills beyond a 4th grade level.


Engage 3 Ways

We invite all to join us in our three-part service project, Engage 3 Ways. Supply drives, volunteering and global giving activities have been planned to raise literacy rates. These local, national and global initiatives will support organizations engaged in the life changing work of teaching children and adults how to read: school systems and literacy programs.

Download the Literacy Kit to get started.

1 Supply Drives

Local Supply Drive

This grassroots campaign supports school systems, one of the largest providers of free reading programs in most communities. We are calling upon congregations, civic groups and businesses to collect school supplies and donate to local school systems in need. Learn More.

Stuff the Pack (National Special Service Project)

General Synod 30 participants may take part in preparing backpacks stuffed with school supplies that will be distributed by our community partner, University Settlement, to children within the Cleveland Municipal School District. Learn More.

2 Volunteer

Become a Literacy Tutor

There are people living in our communities who cannot read a menu, job application, or a prescription bottle. Local literacy programs offer free reading classes. These programs are able to keep costs low by using volunteers as literacy tutors. It takes a commitment of one hour a week to help a person strengthen their reading skills and improve the quality of life. Learn More

Tutor the Tutor Event

Learn how volunteering as a literacy tutor one hour a week can change a life. Learn More

3 School Supplies Abroad

Donate to Coptic Evangelical Organization for Social Services (CEOSS), a literacy program in Cairo, Egypt promoted by Global Ministries. Proceeds will be used to buy back to school supplies for participants. Learn More.



Supply Drives

During the 2013-2014 school year, U.S. teachers spent an average of $513 out-of-pocket on school supplies. In preparation for the first day, school systems distribute lists of required items to parents. To a household in need, this may be a cost that cannot be absorbed.

Without these basic supplies, the learning process is interrupted, especially for elementary students, who develop early reading skills in kindergarten through the sixth grade. School supplies support educators to teach specified curricula.

Local Supply Drive

We have made it easy to support school systems in your area with a supply drive. Follow these simple steps to plan a drive:

  1. Recruit a team of friends, family, members of your congregation, and co-workers.
  2. Connect with your local school system. Inquire about supplies that are needed and where supplies should be dropped off. Find a school in your community through the National Center for Education Statistics.
  3. Promote your event through email blasts, social media sites, local papers, church bulletins and company newsletters. Include a list of needed school supply items.
  4. Determine drop off location(s) and provide a collection container.
  5. Collect supplies. Once complete, sort and bundle for drop off.
  6. Report Back – Let us know how the Supply Drive went! Post pictures on Twitter, Instagram, etc. using #UCCforLiteracy

Recommended school supply list

Crayons - 24-packs
Rulers – 12 inches
Pencils – No. 2 in 10 packs
Glue Sticks/Paste – 2-pack
Folders – 3 tab

Notebook Paper - college and wide ruled
Notebooks, Spiral - 150 sheets
Pens - 10 packs in blue, black and red ink
Eraser – 2 pack
Scissors – blunt tip

For answers to frequently asked questions and more information, please click here to download the FAQ/Fact Sheet.

Stuff the Pack Event (National Special Service Project for General Synod Registrants)

Our UCC service project at General Synod 30 will be a "Stuff the Pack" event. All Synod registrants are invited to participate in the assembly of 1,000 backpacks filled with school supplies, for elementary age students. The packs will be donated to our partner, University Settlement, a nonprofit social service agency that has been serving city of Cleveland since 1926. University Settlement will distribute the backpacks during their "Back to School Resource Fair," an annual event where they give away close to 3,000 back packs to children in the Cleveland Metropolitan School District, in August.

Participants are encouraged to bring a school supply for inclusion in additional backpacks for University Settlement's Back to School Resource Fair.

Location for Stuff the Pack Event and drop off for school supplies:

Global Center for Health Innovation (attached onto the Cleveland Convention Center)
Junior Ballroom
1 Saint Claire Avenue NE
Cleveland, OH 44114

Dates and times:

Friday, June 26, 2015
Saturday, June 27, 2015
Sunday, June 28, 2015

5:00 pm – 7:00 pm
1:30 pm – 3:30 pm
9:00 am – 11:00 am

For answers to frequently asked questions and more information, please click here to download the FAQ/Fact Sheet.



Imagine if (5-7) members from each faith based, non-profit and corporate organization signed up with a literacy agency? We would make a substantial impact on raising literacy rates throughout the US.

Become a Literacy Tutor

Literacy programs provide a place where individuals may attend free reading classes. Aside from financial resources, literacy programs are in need of committed volunteers. Along with training, an hour a week is often all that is required to change a life. Find out how to volunteer with a literacy program in your area through LINCS an initiative of the U.S. Department of Education, Office of Career, Technical, and Adult Education.

Tutor the Tutor Event

Spend an afternoon learning how to change lives by becoming a literacy tutor. Rob Shindler, author of Hot Dogs & Hamburgers: Unlocking Life's Potential by Inspiring Literacy at Any Age and special guest, Kurt Karakul, Executive Director of Third Federal Foundation, will share their passion for raising literacy rates. Northeast Ohio programs will be on hand to distribute information and sign up interested individuals.

Date and time:

Sunday, June 28, 2015
12:30 pm – 2:00 pm


Global Center for Health Innovation (attached onto the Cleveland Convention Center)
Junior Ballroom
1 Saint Claire Avenue NE
Cleveland, OH 44114

Please register to attend the event by clicking here

For answers to frequently asked questions and more information, please click here to download the FAQ/Fact Sheet. To download the Tutor the Tutor Event poster, please click here.

School Supplies for Cairo

The progress of countries and communities depends on educated and trained individuals. In Cairo, Egypt, more than 16 million people over the age of 10 are illiterate, according to the Central Agency for Public Mobilization and Statistics (CAPMAS). Of those approximately 10.3 million are women.

To address this critical issue, Coptic Evangelical Organization for Social Services (CEOSS), our global missions partner in Cairo, created a program to promote literacy for women and girls. In their first session, CEOSS enrolled more than 61,000 individuals in literacy classes and 37,000 students passed their final exams at the end of the classes.

"School Supplies for Cairo" will support these efforts by raising funds to meet one of their major needs: backpacks and school supplies. With this support, Cairo children in need will receive a new backpack and supplies. Your contributions of $5, $10 or $20 will go directly to CEOSS to help end illiteracy in Cairo. Please click here to donate.

Cleveland Community Literacy Partners

It takes a community of congregations, mosques, synagogues, businesses and non-profits working together to raise literacy rates in Cleveland, Ohio. UCC is proud to partner with the following organizations on this initiative:

How are UCC members working to promote literacy?

One Read - The UCC “all-church read” took place in the fall of 2014. UCC congregations engaged in study using the book: Hot Dogs and Hamburgers: Unlocking Life's Potential by Inspiring Literacy at Any Age. Learn more about the UCC One Read.

March Forth for Literacy – On March 4, 2015 UCC members engaged in a day of conversation via social media focused on spreading literacy awareness, and sharing their involvement in literacy issues locally and nationally. Learn more about March Forth for Literacy.

Community Engagement - In order to effectively address literacy, communities must come together on a large scale. The final push in the initiative is an effort to “Engage 3 Ways,” includes special service project at General Synod. UCC churches will partner with organizations that teach children and adults how to read: school systems and literacy programs.

Contact Reading Changes Lives Team

United Church of Christ
700 Prospect Avenue
Cleveland, OH 44115

Angela D. Barnes, Project Manager
Email: abarnes@adbstrategies.com
Phone: (216) 502-2741