Pajamas, books and Clifford the Big Red Dog

Union A.M.E. Church donates

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  • Nearly 20 children, many dressed in their jammies, were on hand last Friday when Clifford the Big Red Dog, the famed character of the Scholastic children's book series, made a special visit to Union A.M.E. Church for the first annual Pajama Jam.

– Clifford the Big Red Dog, the famed character of the Scholastic children’s book series, made a special visit to Union A.M.E. Church on Friday, July 25, for the first annual Pajama Jam.

Nearly 20 children dressed in their pajamas were accompanied by their parents for the event, which featured family reading time, story time with the pastor and ended with Clifford making his grand appearance to the screams of delight of those present.

“Clifford is one of the most beloved and recognized characters in children’s literature,” said the Rev. Kevin T. Taylor, pastor of Union. “As we encourage the love of reading as part of our Summer Literacy Challenge, Clifford was the perfect character to celebrate with us.”

Children respond
In describing the event, Taylor recounted the children's reactions:

“Clifford, take a picture with me,” one child said.

“Clifford, stand next to me during the ‘Hokey Pokey,’”added another.

“Have some cookies and milk with me, Clifford,” added a third.

And simply, “I love you, Clifford."

But children weren't the only ones enjoying the program.

“I want a picture with Clifford, too,” said the Rev. Dr. Raquel S. Lettsome, one of the associate ministers at Union. Lettsome’s 7-month-old son, Luke, and 4-year-old niece, Tiffany, enjoyed the event as well.

“Is Clifford coming to Church on Sunday, too?” asked Tiffany afterward.

Cecilia Cenot, owner of Love Grows Child Care and a member of Union, encouraged her clients to come with their families. “This was absolutely great! The kids loved it and had a great time with Clifford,” she said.

Summer Literary Challenge

More than three dozen pairs of new children’s pajamas were collected to benefit the Pajama Program, the New York-based non-profit founded to provide pajamas for one million children in need around the globe.

Donations will be accepted through Sunday, Aug. 3.

Taylor said the Pajama Jam was the midpoint of the Summer Literacy Challenge, which builds on the success of last year’s Summer Reading Challenge at Union. This year’s challenge has expanded to three areas of literacy: reading, biblical and financial.

In addition to the Pajama Jam, Union hosted its inaugural Bible Bowl on Saturday, July 26, a fun-filled, Jeopardy-style event which tested Bible-knowledge.

Likewise, the church sponsors Vacation Bible School and the Summer Mathematics Institute the week of Aug. 4.

'Summer learning loss'

And for the second year in a row, Union partnered with Scholastic to purchase age-appropriate summer reading books such that every student in the congregation received at least five books to add to their home libraries.

“When I was a Scholastic employee, leading researchers like University of Tennessee professor, Dr. Richard Allington spoke of the ‘summer learning loss’ and its effect on the achievement gap, especially in communities of color,” said Taylor. “When students have books to read during the summer months, the learning loss is stemmed and students return to the classroom in the fall better prepared for the year ahead.

“When I became pastor of Union," he added, "I knew we must make education one of the centerpieces of our ministry to the community and I am thankful for Scholastic’s partnership in this endeavor.”

The challenge concludes on Sunday, Aug. 24, at the 11 a.m. during the Educators & Administrators Recognition Service. During the service, the student who read the most books over the summer and the high school student whose stocks performed the best in the stock market will be awarded prizes.

The cat, the governor, the first lady

Asked whether Clifford will make a return visit next year, Taylor noted that other children’s characters and celebrities will be invited, too.

“Wouldn’t it be great for the students to hear from the “Cat in the Hat” of the Dr. Seuss books or meet Mrs. Fizzle from The Magic School Bus? I am sure the students would love to know New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s favorite children’s books. Or to hear First Lady Michele Obama reading to them the children books she read to her daughters.”

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