• 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 learning about and 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 in 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 congregations to join us in our three-part service project, Engage 3 Ways, with local, national and global actions planned to raise literacy rates.  Together we can support organizations that engage in the life changing work of teaching children and adults how to read.  School systems and literacy programs are on the cutting edge of efforts to address literacy.  We invite you, your congregation, your community and businesses to help supply resources to organizations that provide free access to reading programs.

Download the Literacy Kit to get started.

Three ways to engage:

1 - Local Supply Drive

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

2 - General Synod 30

Stuff the Pack (National Special Service Project) - General Synod 30 participants will prepare backpacks with school supplies that will be distributed by our community partner, University Settlement, to children within the Cleveland Municipal School District. Learn More.

Tutor the Tutor Opportunities - This community event invites all to spend an afternoon learning how to become an effective literacy tutor with Rob Shindler, author of Hot Dogs & Hamburgers: Unlocking Life's Potential by Inspiring Literacy at Any Age. Learn More

3 - School Supplies for Cairo

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.



Local Supply Drive

During the 2013-2014 school year U.S. teachers spent an average of $513 out-of-pocket on school supplies. Each year school systems distribute lists of needed supplies to parents, a cost which many households cannot absorb.  Without these basic supplies, educators are unable to teach specified curricula.  The learning process is interrupted, especially for elementary students, who develop essential early reading skills in kindergarten through the sixth grade.

While advocates are working to address the systemic policy and budgetary challenges faced by our public education system, the immediate needs of students have never been greater. The UCC Supply Drive makes it easy for you to champion a school supply drive in your community and donate.

Follow these simple steps to plan a successful school supply 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.
  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

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


Stuff the Pack (National Service Project)

General Synod 2015 Service Project

In order to succeed in school, students need basic supplies to support their learning. For children in need, even inexpensive items may be out of reach.

In order to succeed in school, students need basic supplies to support their learning. For children in need, even inexpensive items may be out of reach.

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.

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

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

Stuff the Pack dates and times at General Synod 30:

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.

Tutor the Tutor Opportunities

There are people living in our communities who do not know how to read a menu, a newspaper, a job application, or a prescription bottle. Committing a few hours a week to help a person strengthen their reading skills can improve their quality of life and make a strong impact on your community.

Synod registrants, along with local congregations and interfaith partners, are invited to learn how to approach this work with love and become an effective literacy tutor.

If you are not attending Synod, but would like to find out how to become a literacy tutor in your community, you can find a literacy program in your community through LINCS, an initiative of the U.S. Department of Education, Office of Career, Technical, and Adult Education.

Tutor the Tutor date and time at General Synod:

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

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

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. How are UCC members working to promote literacy?

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

Rev. Judith Youngman, National Literacy Coordinator
Email: youngmanj@ucc.org
Phone: (216) 736-3714

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