Debbie DiCarlo, director of parish and community engagement at Catholic Charities Community Services, explains foster care to seventh-graders at Ss. Simon and Jude School Nov. 27 after reading two books written by children in foster care. (courtesy photo)

It wasn’t the typical story hour. Instead of children who don’t know how to read or are just learning, it was seventh-graders who gathered in the library for Ss. Simon and Jude‘s Guest Reader program Nov. 27.

The guest: Debbie DiCarlo, who is in charge of connecting faith communities and other partners with volunteer efforts at Catholic Charities Community Services. The guest reader program promotes reading by showing that people in all professions read.

DiCarlo told the seventh grade students that she was and still is a reader.  There is a study that shows that children who read are more tolerant of others. (here’s one study and note page 5, item 5 here)

Through a book, the reader is able to walk in another’s shoes, she said. Seeing how others live and the struggles they face is part of DiCarlo’s daily work. She helps community members engage in ministry or service that supports local foster care. So she knows a bit about the 13,500 children under 18 who do not have a home and are currently in foster care.

DiCarlo read three short books, “picture windows into another’s life,” to the students. Two of the authors are foster children.

Then students asked questions about DiCarlo’s work:

  • What age can you become a foster parent?
  • What happens when the kid turns 18 and they’re still in foster homes?
  • Where do you keep the 13,500 children [in the foster care system] who don’t have a foster home?

The children learned, not only about the value of reading, but more importantly the value of caring for others and Catholic social teaching.