When you’re a pregnant and parenting teenager, or a young man experiencing gang pressure, it’s hard to get excited about school.
Literature for All of Us reaches out to these troubled young adults and provides a safe place where they can develop communication, literacy and critical-thinking skills alongside their peers.
Since 1996, when Executive Director and Founder Karen Thomson organized the first book group, thousands of young people have been served using her innovative, holistic literacy model. Each year, they reach 500-600 young people who are hungry for the opportunity to learn and grow. “They really appreciate someone taking time to listen, to not judge, to believe in them, to see their strengths,” Thomson says.
Professional book group leaders meet weekly for 90-minute sessions with each group and lead them through book discussions, reading aloud, poetry-writing exercises, and sharing of their own writing. Each month, every participant receives a new copy of the book for discussion, chosen for its personal relevance to the participants’ lives. For many, it is the first time that they can relate to literature, seeing themselves in the characters within the stories. They are encouraged to share the books with family members and friends.
The book group members are given prompts and encouraged to write poetry that helps them express their innermost thoughts and feelings. These voices are celebrated through public poetry readings and published anthologies of their work.
During its first 10 years of existence, Literature for All of Us exclusively served teen mothers and other at-risk young women. In 2006, the agency piloted a boys’ program that has been very successful. The Children’s Literature for Parenting program was started to inspire young parents to read to their children. Structured workshop sessions that promote an interactive reading style teach them how to make reading a fun and rewarding experience, allowing for the child-parent bond to be strengthened as well as fostering cognitive development.
Literature for All of Us has been marvelously successful in their primary goal: turning young people into enthusiastic, independent readers. Through reading and writing, they are being empowered to think beyond their circumstances and to free their imaginations, thus fulfilling the Literature for All of Us mission: “We open worlds by opening books.”
Literature for All of Us By The Numbers:
- 20-24 book groups facilitated each year
- More than 7,000 young people served through these programs
This article is part of our 2013 Philanthropy Awards. Find more of our winners here: