Getting More Bang for Your Book

The Vancouver District United Methodist Women offers ways to increase Reading Program participation.

Getting More Bang for Your Book
Books on display as part of the Vancouver District United Methodist Women lending library in Washington State.

In the Pacific Northwest Conference, we really enjoy the United Methodist Women Reading Program—and we know how to get United Methodist Women’s recommended books without breaking our piggybanks.
We encourage women, men, youth and children to participate in the Reading Program. We encourage use of Reading Program books for Sunday school classes, during children’s time in worship services and at United Methodist Women circle meetings. As a result, in our district, the Vancouver District in Washington State, we even have churches that participate in the Reading Program that do not (yet) even have United Methodist Women units.
We in the Vancouver District have put together ways that your unit or district can expand your Reading Program and not overextend yourselves. The easiest way that we have found to get the books into the hands of readers is to establish a lending library and to display the available books whenever possible. This includes at United Methodist Women meetings, church meetings and coffee hour most Sundays. In this way, readers have access to the books and can borrow them using a simple checkout form on which people put their name, title of the book, Reading Program category and date they are borrowing it. When they bring the book back, we have a column for them to put that date down as well. The Vancouver District United Methodist Women make the checkout form and report form available for all local units to use.
About once a month, a Reading Program team transfers the data from the checkout forms onto a chart that shows readers where they are in the program. This lets the readers know when they are close to completing a level.

Getting the books 

At Vancouver Heights United Methodist Church, each United Methodist Women circle agrees to purchase one recommended book from a different Reading Program category. Our unit all together also uses some of its funds to obtain one United Methodist Women’s book from each category every year so that levels 1 and 2 are attainable by all who want to participate. This sets up a lending library at the church.
For additional books, many of our Vancouver District members like to purchase extra books to help spread the pleasure of reading. For the books that are not available from United Methodist Women Mission Resources, we like to patronize local bookstores, choosing bookstores that keep the proceeds local and help get books into the local women’s shelters, low-income day cares, low-income schools and our local prisons.
Another great source for books is your local library. For units on a tight budget, the library is the place to start! For those with vision issues or who have long commutes, audiobooks can be a great way to participate. Libraries often have regular books, large print books, book kits (for many people to be able to read one book at the same time), books on CD and downloadable books (text and/or audio) available for checking out.
As soon as the yearly Reading Program books are shared, local libraries are checked by the district secretary for program resources and the results typed up in a spreadsheet. This is printed for local church members and added to the district secretary of program resources web page for distribution.
When local United Methodist Women members in charge of a church’s Reading Program get the Reading Program list, they go to their fellow members and find out what books they want to purchase and pass that information on to the district secretary of program resources so that the books can be available at the Vancouver District United Methodist Women Annual Meeting.

Learning and growing

The reading often sparks conversations among Reading Program participants. Some of this is in person at coffee hour or at United Methodist Women meetings. Sometimes a circle meeting will start with prayer, followed by the reading of a short book and discussion before closing in prayer. These can be the most energetic meetings and often lead to other discussions and actions. Books can also be discussed and shared by writing a book report or review, which can be posted on a church bulletin board or put into a church (or unit or district) newsletter.
In addition to the Vancouver District secretary of program resources website, we also have a monthly newsletter that includes Reading Program reminders, book reviews, relevant Web links and other information.
Something to remember: United Methodist Women mission studies count toward the Reading Program too! For our district, we contact the Mission u registrar and find out how many women, men and youth attended each class. We then share this information with local church Reading Program representatives to make sure the Mission u participants get Reading Program credit as well.
To help entice all Pacific Northwest districts to encourage Reading Program participation, our conference secretary of program resources offers a prize to all districts who have increased their reading from the year before. This can also be done at the district level for local units, at the local unit level for circles, or within a circle for individuals! Remember, the important thing is that people are reading and learning about issues important to United Methodist Women members and to the improvement of our communities and the world.
Hopefully these tips can help make your Reading Program more effective and viable without costing you a lot of money. We believe that this will get people reading and talking about books and the issues that are in the hearts and minds of United Methodist Women members. What are you waiting for? Get reading!
Penny Wharton is president of and Lyn Milner is secretary of program resources for the Vancouver District United Methodist Women in Washington State. Visit the Vancouver District Reading Program page at

Posted or updated: 12/4/2018 12:00:00 AM

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