What is ML?

The purpose of Mission: Literacy is to significantly increase the percentage of children able to read at grade level. It was also created to help children discover the joy of reading God’s word. In accomplishing these primary objectives, the program will also help to break the cycle of illiteracy, to establish caring relationships between tutors and children, and to have children embrace the conviction that reading is a useful and enjoyable activity.

Vision and Values

Mission: Literacy is a multi-cultural literacy curriculum proven to raise children’s reading skills as they learn 30 Bible stories. Each 28-page storybook has full-color illustrations that draw the reader into the story, and the texts have been vetted by the Nida Institute for Biblical Scholarship, an arm of the American Bible Society. Mission: Literacy is designed for the non-professional reading tutor – providing easy to follow lesson plans for each bible story. Its target audience is children struggling at a first through third grade reading level.
The foundation of Mission: Literacy is its student-centered, small group instruction that encourages a nurturing relationship between tutor and child. This highly individualized approach secures both the attention and support critical to educational and spiritual development. Mission: Literacy combines a phonics and whole language approach to decoding words. Active, hands-on learning is also a catalyst to its success.
The past 7 years have shown a consistency in improved reading skills. In Salvation Army programs across the country, children receiving at least 16 tutoring sessions have an average increase of 7 points on the curriculum’s Pre/Post Test scores, roughly equivalent to about half of a grade level.
As Salvation Army tutors have worked with the materials, they have suggested ways to improve its delivery, and the American Bible Society has always responded. The most recent change involved a program expansion and a digital format. The curriculum now has 2 items….. One box of Readers (30 storybooks) and a CD comprised of the Lesson Plans, Roadmap to Reading and the Alphabet and Phonics Book PLUS MANY additional learning activities, games and crafts newly written into each lesson plan. This change of format streamlines the materials, and the digitization makes it financially sustainable.

This new format physically looks like less than the previous one, but is actually more since learning activities and templates have been added to each lesson plan – saving the tutors the time and work of finding activities to coordinate with each lesson on their own. The newly expanded lesson plans found on the Mission: Literacy website were compiled by an educator from the Central Territory and endorsed by the American Bible Society.

In the past 7 years since The Salvation Army launched Mission: Literacy, there has been a growing commitment to the program based on observed results. Officers moved from one corps to another are establishing Mission: Literacy in their new appointments. There has been an increase of invitations for Mission: Literacy training to be part of The Salvation Army’s territorial and national conferences. As individual corps look for local funding for afterschool programs or summer day camps, they are citing Mission: Literacy as a key educational component to what they offer. Increasingly, Kroc Centers are working it into their learning centers. It is included as a Best Practice on www.KrocToolKit.org.
As Mission: Literacy expands, so will the need to strategize for capacity building. A new website and Facebook presence is part of this. Area Coordinators overseeing local Mission: Literacy networks would facilitate introductory and follow-up trainings as well as provide on-going technical assistance.

Launching Mission: Literacy

  • Financial resources
  • Program Coordinator or Leader
  • Other staff or volunteers
  • Relationships to schools or the community
  • Scheduling time and space for 16 session program
  • Willingness and ability to host ABS staff visit
  • Long term goals and objectives for Mission: Literacy
  • Determine funding sources
  • Designate a space
  • Identify potential students
  • Recruit class leaders and volunteers
  • Assign 1 tutor per 5 or fewer children
  • Order curriculum
  • Complete an orientation with leaders and volunteers
  • Meet with parents and guardians of students
  • Pre-test students
  • Launch! Begin classes at least once a week for sixteen sessions!

For more information and to order curriculum, email David.Witthoff@usw.salvationarmy.org or Krystina.Macias@usw.salvationarmy.org!

Mission: Literacy History

In January of 2006, The American Bible Society conducted a pilot of Mission: Literacy with strategic partners throughout the New York area. Three Salvation Army New Jersey Division corps participated: Paterson, New Brunswick and Newark Westside. After documenting significant student improvement, the New Jersey Division enthusiastically recommended this effective program to other corps.

In October of 2006, the American Bible Society (ABS) offered the New Jersey Division of The Salvation Army a ten-year Copyright License Agreement. This agreement gave the New Jersey Division royalty-free ownership of Mission: Literacy and the right to print, use and distribute it to Salvation Army sites across the United States. ABS granted Mission: Literacy in good faith that the New Jersey Division would “get it to the streets” of the communities where the army already had an established trust with families in need. The result has been a thriving multi-layer partnership through which ABS supplies the army’s foot soldiers with resources to engage people with God’s Word.

In April of 2008, Eastern Territorial Headquarters administered a generous 3-year grant from the Thomas Lyle Williams Foundation – to be used territory-wide to launch Mission: Literacy programs.

In July 2008, the American Bible Society generously funded a second revision and reprinting of the curriculum and trainings and implementation in Salvation Army corps. It also provided a Mission Manager to facilitate the growth of the partnership into other areas: Residential Camps, Back to School Back Pack Programs and Emergency Disaster Services. In spring of 2010, in response to the fast spread of Mission: Literacy across the army, the American Bible Society funded the third reprint of the curriculum.

In Fall of 2011, American Bible Society endorsed the expansion of lesson plans to include an array of additional learning activities, games and crafts. Margaret Petrowske, an educator from the Central Territory, did the professional writing for this expansion. Additionally, the lesson plans, outcome measures and reporting forms were digitized.
Moving forward, the American Bible Society seeks to continue supporting The Salvation Army as the primary implementer of Mission: Literacy. As the army continues to train individuals on the use of the curriculum and put it to use with their at-risk children, the American Bible Society is supporting those efforts with the financial and biblical resources necessary to expand the program to corps across the United States.


Dawn Sharp: Tutor, Child Care & Literacy Consultant, New Jersey Division

Only 18 months after whispering to me that he could not read very well, Carlos beamed at the receipt of his very own brand new Read and Learn Children’s Bible. He had earned it after reading 30 texts as part of the Mission: Literacy reading program. Upon completion, his reading ability had jumped from an early first grade level to a late third grade level.

Carlos’ second grade teacher had referred him to the after school program at The Salvation Army because she had previously seen two of her other students significantly improve their reading proficiency after they had been part of a TSA Mission: Literacy tutoring group. Concerned about Carlos’ struggle with reading, the teacher suggested to his parents that they enroll him with us.

Carlos tested as barely reading at a 1st grade level. He was very withdrawn and quietly told me, “I can’t read very well.” Our first lesson went quietly along with Carlos showing some spark when playing games with word cards. We talked about our first bible story, In the Beginning, and I explained that the stories we would be talking about were all from the bible. He asked, “What is a bible?” I explained but there was not one in the room where we were so I said I would get one to show him the next time we met.

Carlos’ first question at our next lesson was, “Did you find one of those books – the one all of these stories are in?” He wanted to see where In the Beginning was in the bible. I showed him, pointing to the words as I read, and he smiled with each part of the story he recognized as being the same as our story book. He smiled like this was really a blast then picked up the storybook and looked up each “day” as I read its creative act from the bible.

Then, Carlos launched into a string of questions: Where are all of the other stories in the bible? Who is God? God was before people and everything? Pointing to the blankly dark picture representing the time before creation, he asked, “Was God there? Where is God? Would we call God “invisible?” He can see us all of the time? Remembering the sanctuary we had gone into to look for a bible, Carlos asked, “What is a church?” We talked about how we could talk to God anytime and he will listen – like in the prayer one of his classmates had just said thanking God for their snack.
Carlos accepted each simple answer, his mind quickly moving onto another question. His shyness was set aside for awhile as he was intrigued by an invisible God who knew him, whom he could talk to anytime, who could help him, who had a bible full of his stories and who was so powerful he could create something brand new by just saying a word. I was intrigued too – by the power of the written word of God speaking into the heart and curiosity of a little boy.