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Manatee County churches help bring literacy program to students

Manatee County churches help bring literacy program to students

e-Review Florida United Methodist News Service

Manatee County churches help bring literacy program to students

March 1, 2005    News media contact:  Tita Parham*    
407-897-1184     Orlando  {0256}

An e-Review Feature
By Jenna De Marco**

BRADENTON — As the parent and family educator for the Manatee County School Board, Mary Corbin knows families must have good reading materials in their homes for their children.
"I work with Title I schools and many of these families don't have printed materials in their homes," Corbin said.
Now she's found a way to help make that possible for all children enrolled in kindergarten through eighth grade in her county. Every Friday children may take home a copy of that day's local newspaper — the Manatee Herald-Tribune.
"All of our teachers ... can order it for free," Corbin said.
The papers are available to each child through the Newspaper in Education (NIE) program, sponsored by Manatee County United Methodist churches, the Manatee County School Board, the Manatee County Schools Foundation, and Parent Education and Resource Learning Services.
Corbin, who is also a member of Faith United Methodist Church here, said she and a diverse group of people spent time brainstorming how to best help schoolchildren, and came up with the idea.
"Our goal is to begin to show our community how we're all working together — to send the same message that we're all here to help," Corbin said.
The Friday paper includes both a half-page and full page of student activities twice a month, Corbin said. She said the activities are targeted for third-grade standards and benchmarks, but can easily be modified to suit any child's age.

Corbin also said the teachers may assign the activities as homework, covering the disciplines of science, social studies, language arts and reading. Activities include questions and answers for parents and their children. The papers are also available in English or Spanish.
"It's a great way to get reading materials into the home," Corbin said.
Corbin said she approached several churches about sponsoring the program. Her pastor, the Rev. Chris Akers, told her he believed this was something the United Methodist church could do.
Akers was already an active participant in a group of United Methodist pastors who meet regularly in Manatee County, and Corbin visited the group to ask for sponsorship. The Rev. Richard Nussel, pastor of First United Methodist Church here, said the group quickly decided to financially support the NIE program. Nussel said the group saw this as an "opportunity to make a statement to our county as churches."
Nussel said the pastor's group has been meeting since about 1999, with consistently 12 to15 pastors at each group meeting.
"(It's) really developed into a cluster group, and we meet for breakfast every Monday," he said.
Nussel estimated the cost to the Manatee United Methodist churches for backing the program was about $1,000. The paper lists the Manatee County churches, along with the cross and flame symbol, as one of the sponsors.

Nussel said the group is always seeking more outreach opportunities. "That really is part of the spirit of this group that we've developed," Nussel said. "We'll be looking for other countywide groups (to assist)."


This article relates to Outreach.

*Parham is managing editor of e-Review Florida United Methodist News Service.
**De Marco is a freelance writer based in Viera, Fla.