Bishop Frank J. Dewane reads to children at St. Michael Parish in Wauchula on July 11 as part of a summer program. (PHOTO by BOB REDDY)

Bishop reads to children at two programs

Arcadia  |  With eager, young children sitting at his feet, Bishop Frank J. Dewane read a book with great enthusiasm by feeding off their energy in the moment.

In fact, Bishop Dewane read to two groups of young children on July 11. First, he visited St. Michael Parish in Wauchula to read to third and fifth graders taking part in a comprehensive summer day camp. Later the same day he traveled to Arcadia to visit Casa San Juan Bosco of Catholic Charities to younger children who were taking part in an afternoon summer reading program.

Edwin, a young resident of Casa San Juan Bosco farm worker housing, along with his family, said it was “cool” to have the Bishop read to his group of summer friends. “The book was fun, too.”

The book the Bishop read to each group was “You Are Special” by Max Lucado. It tells the story of small wooden people called “Wemmicks” and specifically about Punchinello, whose opinion of himself changes after talking to his creator, who says “you are special because I made you, and I don’t make mistakes.”

The book uses the example of the Wemmicks receiving gold stickers for being pretty or for having some talent, while others, like Punchinello, get ugly gray dots because other Wemmicks see flaws or pick on him. But when Punchinello meets his creator and learns he is special, and he believes it, the dots start falling off.

The lesson, as the Bishop reminded the children, is that no matter how different they may be from their friends or if someone isn’t nice to them, they must always remember that they are truly special because each one of them is made in the image and likeness of God.

“That’s why you are special,” Bishop Dewane stressed. “When God makes you, God loves you. And when you know who you are within, then it doesn’t make any difference what kind of sticker anyone else puts on you. It won’t stick.”

Challenging the students to be a Wemmick who has no stickers, the Bishop spent some time taking questions from both groups and more closely showing the artwork inside the book.

Both reading programs are part of the “2019 Suncoast Summer Reading Challenge – The Campaign for Grade-Level Reading.” This challenge is being funded through the generosity of The Patterson Foundation and is a community-wide effort in Charlotte, DeSoto, Manatee, Sarasota and Hardee counties to help children, especially those from low-income families, succeed in school and life by ensuring they read on grade level by the end of third grade.

With the support of Catholic Charities and St. Michael Parish, reading teachers come in during the week to help each student improve their readings skills. In Arcadia, there is a friendly competition among the children taking part in the reading program to be the one who reads the most books.

The Patterson Foundation has found that reading is one of the most important skills a child can master and that there is a strong connection between reading skills and overall academic and life success. Research shows that children can lose two months or more of reading skills during the summer if they are not reading regularly. Reading just six books at the appropriate reading level during the summer can prevent a loss of reading skills.

Bishop Dewane said he strongly supports the efforts of the Suncoast Summer Reading Challenge as this is the second year that the Arcadia program has been in place. The Wauchula program started this summer to great success.