‘Read and Feed’ blesses Dayton

by Robert Mitchell

Students often let their reading skills slide in summer, but not if The Salvation Army’s Ray & Joan Kroc Corps Community Center in Dayton, Ohio, has anything to say about it.

The popular Read and Feed program is back this summer with seven Monday events scheduled at the city’s Stuart Patterson Park. Families can come together for a free lunch and book giveaway, and each week, a featured guest will read the spotlighted book. The children also get to either craft or color.

Erin Lutz, the Kroc Center’s education programming specialist, said the events also promote the Dayton Metro Library’s summer reading challenge.

“We give out meals and books, but we want to focus on it as a literacy program and encourage the families who come to get out and read,” Lutz said. “We want to open their mind to the library, which has a lot of other books, and let them know what the resources are in the community.”

This year’s events are June 3, 10, 17, and 24, and July 8, 15, and 22. About 15 to 20 people came out for each Read and Feed day last year, Lutz said, including a growing number of immigrants from Turkey, Africa, and the Latino world.

“I have a very robust ad campaign this time to boost attendance,” she said. “I’m hoping to have a lot more guests this year. Everyone gets a copy of the book read that day.”

The first week, Dani Gustavich, a children’s librarian with the Dayton Metro Library, will share a timely book called And Then Comes Summer.

Other readers include Salvation Army Lieutenant Shawn Williams (Salt in His Shoes), after-school leader and dancer Haven Williams (Brontorina), and local author Marie Kriedman (Santa’s Toy-Tastrophy).

Representatives from the Dayton Fire Department will read Firefighters Are Heroes! and the Dayton Police Department plans to present We Don’t Eat Our Classmates, a book about bullying.

Lieutenant Shawn Williams and his wife, Captain Wonni Williams, the corps officers at the Kroc Center, take part in Read and Feed, Lutz said. “They come and pray and bring a message that goes along with the book.”

Lutz and The Salvation Army hope to prevent the “summer slide” between school years where kids fall behind in reading, then suffer when the new school year starts.

“If we can provide resources and encourage reading during the summer, then they hopefully won’t experience that slip back and will start off in the same place they were the previous school year,” she said.

Lutz, a former preschool teacher who has worked for The Salvation Army for two years, has a heart for teaching youngsters the value of reading.

“I’ve always thought it was super important to be able to read because when you can read, you can educate yourself no matter where you are or what you’re doing. You can educate yourself on spirituality and how you can find Jesus. If you have a Bible, you can read about Him. There is a direct connection to learning about God.

“That’s why I love having the opportunity to work for The Salvation Army, where I can impact children and how they learn to read and how they can stay connected with books.”

For more information on the Ray & Joan Kroc Corps Community Center in Dayton, Ohio, go to: easternusa.salvationarmy.org/dayton-kroc