Authors: Pamela Morsi
Karen Thompson was not looking to change the world. A stay-at-home mom with a desire to do work she liked on her own schedule, Karen utilized her education and love of books by becoming a professional book group leader. She loved her job and was having marvelous success. Her work was personally fulfilling and she was completely satisfied with the direction of her life.
Then one day a person in her group suggested that the power of the book club was such a wonderful thing, wouldn't it be great if they could find a way to share it with at-risk young women in the city's urban core?
Karen thought that was an interesting idea, but she didn't feel qualified. She wasn't a social worker. She wasn't a youth counselor. She wasn't a survivor of a depressed inner city community. She wasn't young and she wasn't a minority. Surely, she wasn't the person for the job.
For a year, she went on with her day-to-day life as the idea percolated in the back of her mind, calling her, pushing her.
Finally, she decided to do one group. Just one group, she assured herself, just to see if the concept was even feasible.
That first group was almost an homage to her own career. She remembered how she got started: How alone and isolated she'd been as a young mother, and how desperate to think about something besides babies and diapers and the cost of the light bill.
Her first group was entirely made up of teenage moms. Many, including Karen, worried that they might not have any interest at all in reading, writing or each other.
From that very first day, Literature for All of Us changed lives. To hear Karen talk about it is like listening to the witness of a miracle. Reading stories, responding to the themes presented and talking about how they pertained to their own lives had the power to alter the young people's perception of themselves and the world around them. “Their self-esteem and self-confidence went up.” Using the literature they read as a model, Karen asked them to write poetry about themselves. “At a difficult time in their livesâ¦they wrote the truthâ¦and realized how much strength they had.”
Today, in collaboration with alternative high schools, GED providers and after-school programs, the organization carries the book group model to young men and women in underserved neighborhoods impacted by poverty, violence, gangs and drugs. More than half of their clients are pregnant or parenting teens. The program not only enriches their lives, but allows them to pass on the gift of family literacy to the next generation.
If you would like to share your love of reading and the magic of its impact on your life, please check out the website literatureforallofus.org or write to Literature for All of Us, 2010 Dewey Avenue, Evanston, IL 60201
Volunteers, trained book group leaders and financial donations all help to change lives. And changing lives is changing the world.
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Pamela Morsi is acknowledged as the author of
Daffodils in Spring
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