American Bible Society and The Salvation Army Improve Literacy

If you can't read well, school can be pretty challenging. Think of those teachers pointing at cryptic words written on the whiteboard. And all those books! Filled to the brim with gibberish. Forget it. It's too hard. So just quit. Unfortunately, that's what happens to many struggling students. They give up on the one thing that ensures future success: literacy.

But something distinctive is happening in three cities in New Jersey. Kids aren't quitting--they're excelling! Several at-risk elementary students in Newark Westside, Paterson and New Brunswick have vastly improved reading and literacy skills. What is making the difference is the Mission:Literacy program developed by the American Bible Society and put into practice by the New Jersey Division of The Salvation Army. This joint venture creates lessons from the Bible Society's illustrated texts that both improve a student's elementary reading skills and enrich their lives.

According to statistics from Developmental Reading Assessment (DRA), Mission:Literacy is working wonders. Participants over the past year saw reading levels increase significantly -- on average, 89 percent of the children increased seven reading levels. In addition, 79 percent of these kids experienced an increase in the percentage of words accurately read.

"American Bible Society is extremely pleased with The Salvation Army's results stemming from our Literacy Program," explained Thomas Durakis, director for publishing services at American Bible Society's "Being exposed to God's Word will not only improve these children's literacy skills, but will also positively impact their lives beyond the classroom."

American Bible Society designed Mission:Literacy to equip struggling elementary and middle school students with vital literacy tools and biblical principles for daily living. Since inferior reading skills are known to be a contributing factor to delinquency among young people, the program provides children with a chance to improve their lives now -- and into the future. The Bible Society brings its 191-year legacy of communicating God's Word to the program, while The Salvation Army provides staff from three New Jersey corps: Newark Westside, Paterson and New Brunswick.

"Mission:Literacy's excellent program of small group instruction from a caring tutor is precisely the catalyst children need to boost reading skills," said Dawn Sharp, Divisional Childcare Consultant for The Salvation Army in New Jersey.

In 2006, American Bible Society and The Salvation Army launched a pilot phase of the Mission: Literacy program in order to evaluate the effectiveness of a Scripture-based curriculum and help break the vicious cycle that illiteracy unfortunately creates. Tutors at these three regions of The Salvation Army in New Jersey guided academically at-risk children toward reading proficiency through games, character discussions and vocabulary building activities based on stories in the Bible Society's illustrated texts. So many of the children responded well to individualized instruction that, as a result, the Bible Society and The Salvation Army co-signed a 10-year agreement to launch the program in cities nationwide.