Serious Joy at the HerStory Regional Summit in Detroit

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Our Director of Program Innovation, Amber Peterson, recounts an exciting week at the HerStory Regional Summit in Detroit.

The LitWorld team spent the week of May 28th in Detroit, Michigan, visiting and celebrating one of our oldest and most prolific U.S. partners. Since 2012, Detroit has been home to hundreds of LitClub members. Hosted at elementary and middle schools across the Detroit Public School District, LitClubs have a long and proud history of inspiring children and helping shape stories all over the city.

This year, members of the New York and California-based LitWorld and HerStory teams traveled to Michigan to help host the third annual Detroit Regional HerStory Summit, a convening of HerStory LitClub members across Detroit. The summit was an opportunity for girls to cultivate connections, learn from one another, build leadership skills, and drive community-based action.  They participated in dynamic activities, shared stories, and engaged with our powerful Detroit network of girls, women, and community leaders. In keeping with the larger HerStory arc of community service in LitClubs around the globe, the Detroit Regional Summit theme focused on celebrating acts of kindness to ourselves, our communities, and the world.  

 Left to right: Dr. Deborah L. Winston (an honoree at our Spring Gala this year), Cynthia Coble, Amber Peterson.

Left to right: Dr. Deborah L. Winston (an honoree at our Spring Gala this year), Cynthia Coble, Amber Peterson.

After weeks of careful planning and prepping, our teams arrived in Detroit. The LitWorld team consisted of myself and Jodi Harris, LitWorld’s Donor Engagement Lead. We were joined by the HerStory Manager and Team Lead Juliana Vélez, the HerStory International Program Manager, Binta Freeman, HerStory’s Southern California Regional Manager Tracy Tran, and the Global G.L.O.W. Communications and Development Associate, Divya Joseph. Together with the incomparable Detroit Regional Manager, Cynthia Coble, our teams were excited to host the event and meet the girls.

We were more than a little nonplussed to discover that we arrived in Detroit in the midst of a heat wave. Temperatures soared into the mid and high 80s, prompting multiple days of school closures and early dismissals across the district due to a lack of cooling equipment in classrooms.  On May 30th, with a wary eye on the still rising temperature, we traveled to Cynthia’s house to finalize our last to-do’s. After a morning of filling swag bags, filing folders, packing cars, and rehearsing our introduction step routine (which we made up for in enthusiasm what we lacked in coordination!), we headed out for a meeting with Lurine Carter, Coordinator of Children and Teen Services at the Detroit Public Library.  

 The team tours the Woodward Avenue Main Branch building of the Detroit Public Library.

The team tours the Woodward Avenue Main Branch building of the Detroit Public Library.

Our visit started with a tour of the beautiful Woodward Avenue Main Branch building. We discovered the myriad ways that the libraries occupy a seldom heralded but essential role in the Detroit community. They connect all of the downtown public cultural institutions and the school system, host popular and innovative art, music, and theater events, and provide coveted space for community members young and old to learn and have access to information. One of the most impressive and creative aspects of the Main Branch was the “H.Y.P.E. Room,” a community space designed by and reserved for teenagers.  It boasts a state of the art entertainment space, a brand new radio station and recording studio, as well as regular teen programming and opportunities for leadership development. Lurine Carter leads all of the youth focused services at the branch with an inspiring passion for working with young people. Our meeting of kindred spirits was cemented with an enthusiastic invitation for her to join us at the the Summit and her equally enthusiastic confirmation that she would be there.

 The “H.Y.P.E. Room,” a community space designed by and reserved for teenagers at the Detroit Public Library.

The “H.Y.P.E. Room,” a community space designed by and reserved for teenagers at the Detroit Public Library.

On the morning of the Summit, we arose early and watched the news with bated breath, only to discover that intense heat inspired early dismissal across the district once again. The messages of regret and apology began rolling in as principals were forced to cancel afterschool and field trip activities to accommodate altered bussing schedules and new pick up times. The anticipated number of participants quickly began to dwindle.  

Dismayed but not discouraged, we headed out to the gorgeous Belle Isle State Park where the event was to be held and crossed our fingers. We cheered as one by one, busses full of girls from Coleman A. Young Elementary School, Marcus Garvey Elementary and Middle School, Noble Elementary School and Vernor Elementary School rolled up. By 10:00 a.m, the event was in full swing. Our Introductory HerStory step routine, in the tradition of black Greek organizations across the country, was met with generous applause, and was followed by amazing routines that each LitClub made up to introduce themselves.  

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Members then completed special “Message in a Bottle” themed activities led by art teacher extraordinaire, Susan Greene. The girls wrote positive messages to themselves which they put into special, artfully designed tiny bottles that could be worn around their necks.  Then the girls composed messages of strength and positivity to an anonymous recipient which they slid inside decorated water bottles and collected to distribute at a nursing home or classroom of their choosing. Finally, the girls wrote kindness challenge messages to their fellow HerStory LitClub members in California with the expectation that they would complete those challenges and pay them forward in turn.  

 A LitKid shows off her completed "Message in a Bottle" necklace.

A LitKid shows off her completed "Message in a Bottle" necklace.

 Different LitClubs introduced themselves through their own dance routines.

Different LitClubs introduced themselves through their own dance routines.

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The event was an overwhelming success. More than 60 participants were able to complete powerful messages of kindness and hope for the community and our new friend Lurine was able to see our work in action. A videographer from Fox 2 news even showed up to cover the celebration.  

Detroit is and always had been a special part of the LitWorld story. It is a city of constant renewal, filled with innovative and passionate residents. We are proud to play a role in helping to tell and amplify their stories. I can’t wait till our next Motor City adventure!

Reading This Will Not Make You Healthier

Sherrie Dulworth, registered nurse, healthcare professional, and LitWorld Advisory Council member, on the many ways literacy impacts individuals' health—physically, emotionally, and economically. Fostering literacy skills in kids and adults alike is a vital way to combat a number of social issues and health challenges facing communities in the U.S. and around the world.

 

Reading this will not make you healthier—the ability to read this might.

For more than 30 million people in the U.S.  and hundreds of millions around the world, who are functionally illiterate, poor reading skills are a health liability, often in ways that we don’t recognize.

It turns out that literacy is among the social determinants of health—those social variables like access to safe housing, food, and education that can affect the quality of our health.

Physical Health

Imagine that you're sick, really sick, and you can't read. You can’t do online research about your symptoms; you go straight to the doctor. She may give you information to read, but you don't want to admit you can't read it. When you get home, you are too tired, sick, or stressed to remember exactly what she told you. She gives you a prescription, it comes with instructions, but you can't read them.

Even when caregivers discuss printed materials, that education may be all but lost if we can’t recall what they said or if we can’t read how to best care for our malady, which symptoms to worry about, and when to seek help. It’s easy to understand how we could land in an emergency room or hospital bed, and it shouldn’t be a surprise that U.S. adults with poor reading skills have more hospitalizations and higher rates of some chronic conditions, including diabetes mellitus and heart failure.

Celina Ramsey has worked in the field of health literacy for about a decade and has seen people in hospitals struggle to understand patient education materials. The reason? Ramsey, now the Director of Health Literacy, Diversity and Outreach at Staten Island’s Performing Provider System, explained that the materials were written above a 12th grade level. About 14 percent of the U.S. population, or one-in-seven, reads below a 5th grade level.

There’s a growing awareness of the importance of improving health literacy, or making health information more understandable to the average person. This is a good thing for all of us, as is the growing availability of information through radio, television, the internet, and even gamification. While these are steps in the right direction, they are not a substitute for literacy’s influence on our overall health.  

It’s not just individuals who are affected, the widespread ability to read can influence the public’s response during a public health epidemic. A profound example is the 2014 Ebola crisis, when Vox News reported that illiteracy intensified public reliance on myth and misinformation about disease transmission and exacerbated its spread. Of the same crisis, Chernor Bah, a former refugee from Sierra Leone and an Associate at the Population Council, wrote, “Sierra Leone’s Ebola victims include a disproportionate share who could not read the billboards and other public messages advising them how to stay safe.” 

  Image via MUNPlanet.

Image via MUNPlanet.

Emotional Health

Earlier, you envisioned not wanting your doctor to know you can’t read. Now imagine something far more wide-reaching: keeping that secret from the many others in your life. Even if you become adept at “getting by,” you have to be on constant guard to hide your poor reading skills lest you be found out.

“When someone cannot read, it’s a big secret…We become experts at hiding it from our loved ones, from our co-workers and from healthcare professionals,” adult-learner Kristi Clontz explained at a 2008 Health Literacy Summit.  “We are embarrassed, and we feel ashamed.”

According to literacy expert Paul Heavenridge, “Part of mental health is how you see yourself, your self-esteem.” A psychotherapist and executive director of Literacyworks, Heavenridge explained that low literacy is often coupled with the fear of discovery and embarrassment. This may explain why low literacy among U.S. adults is also associated with increased symptoms of depression. 

Economic Health

Illiteracy entangles with illness and poverty into a sort of public health Gordian Knot.

The underlying reasons cited for poor literacy skills in the U.S. vary: an undiagnosed or untreated learning disability, early school drop-outs, and English as a second language. And in a vicious cycle, illiteracy often begets illiteracy. According to the California Library Literacy Services, “When parents can’t read and write, their children are twice as likely to lack literacy.”

When someone cannot read, their ability to find work, especially higher paying jobs, is challenged. There are exceptions like billionaire Richard Branson who described how his dyslexia-related academic struggles caused him to drop out of school at age-16. Yet for every Branson-like example, there are scores of others whose weak reading abilities represent a risk for their physical, emotional and their economic well-being.

On a worldwide basis, women are disproportionately illiterate, with a 2:1 ratio compared to men. This gender inequity affects women’s and maternal-child health and their economic well-being.

Girls’ education, of which reading is a vital component, is essential to ensuring job market opportunities and participation, and the ability to care for their own children. Better educated women marry at a later age and have fewer children; factors that all combine to reduce poverty and improve health.

According to Pam Allyn, founder of LitWorld, “Reading is a fundamental component that empowers and helps people step out of poverty, especially women. Girls and women in communities around the world face the catastrophic implications of poverty and illiteracy. Literacy helps build gender equity and economic self-determination that benefits future generations.”

The reported global economic price tag for illiteracy, including the societal costs of crime and welfare, is $1 trillion USD, the salary equivalent of 18 million U.S. elementary U.S. school teachers. 

Improve Literacy, Improve Health

Evidence supports how the act of reading improves our mental and emotional health but in order to benefit, we must first must possess those fundamental reading skills. It is likewise important to realize the relationship between literacy on individual and overall population health.

By supporting the widespread ability for people‒all people‒to read, caregivers, policymakers, and the public at large will choose to recognize the influence that reading skills have on our overall physical, emotional, and economic health, and literacy education can be viewed as a powerful investment in preventative healthcare.

 
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Sherrie Dulworth

Sherrie Dulworth is a passionate reader and writer. As a Registered Nurse, she has held various executive healthcare roles throughout her professional career and is a graduate from the Columbia University Graduate School of Journalism. She publishes Curious Cats Read, a bibliophile’s blog. Sherrie serves on the Advisory Council for LitWorld and also on the Board of Directors for Services for the Underserved.

 

An Interview with Author & Educator Kate Messner

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Our Storytelling & Advocacy Coordinator spoke with Kate Messner, an award-winning author of children's books and middle-grade novels and a long-time World Read Aloud Day advocate (or WRADvocate) about her writing process, the power of reading aloud, and her latest novel, Breakout, which hits the shelves on June 5th this year.

Tell us a bit about Breakout. What inspired you to come up with the plot and characters for this novel?

The spark for this novel was a real-life prison break, when the escape of two inmates from Clinton Correctional Facility in Northern New York in June of 2015 launched a 23-day manhunt, all through the Adirondack Mountains and beyond. As a person who lives just fourteen miles from the prison, I was completely unnerved by the idea of two murderers lurking in the woods. But as a former journalist—I was a TV news reporter and producer for seven years—I was absolutely fascinated. So after the escape, I spent several days hanging around the prison in Dannemora. I sat at the coffee shop across the street from the prison and talked with people—police officers who had just come in from searching the woods, neighbors of the prison whose kids weren’t sleeping at night, relatives of inmates who couldn’t visit their loved ones while the prison was on lockdown. Everyone had a story, and that was the spark for the novel that would become Breakout.

Why did you choose to tell the story in letters, poems, text messages, news stories, and comics?

My first draft of Breakout had a more traditional structure. It was written in first person, narrated by Nora Tucker, the prison superintendent’s daughter. But when I shared this draft with writer friends, they were intrigued by the other characters, so I started thinking this story might be better served by an unconventional structure. I came up with the idea of a novel-in-documents…a series of letters, text messages, photographs, comics, petitions, recorded conversations, and even recipes that Nora collects for her community time capsule project. It allowed me to explore issues of privilege and perspective so much more than I’d have been able to with a single point of view.

How does Breakout relate to your larger body of work? What drew you to these themes of mystery, heist, and even suspense in your latest novels (Hide and Seek, Manhunt)?

As a reader, I’ve always loved exciting stories that keep me up late at night while I’m reading, but also leave me thinking about big ideas after the last page is turned. That’s what I hope readers take away from my Silver Jaguar Society mysteries as well as Breakout.

As a writer, how do you change your approach from writing middle-grade and young adult novels to picture books? When you get an idea for a story in your head, how do you know whether to pursue it as a novel or a picture book?

Usually, when I have an idea for a book, I can “see” right away whether it’s a picture book or a longer form of storytelling. For me, the genesis of a picture book is about words and images—I can hear the poetry of the story and see the illustrations, page turns and all. By contrast, my novels most often catch fire with a character’s voice and an idea I’d like to explore.

For many, picture books are an obvious choice for read alouds. But do you feel middle-grade novels can and should be read aloud too? If so, how does the read aloud experience change between mediums, and why are middle-grade novels often overlooked as a read aloud choice?

I think smart teachers, librarians, and families have always understood that read alouds aren’t just for little kids—that picture books are for everyone and that novels make for amazing shared reading experiences, too. Personally, I’d love to see a world where we share both picture books and chapter books/novels as read alouds throughout our kids’ reading lives. A picture book read aloud is such a lovely moment that can be revisited over and over, while a shared novel is special because it’s an experience that builds on itself with every chapter. That can spark so many great conversations, and the next chapter is something to look forward to every day.

How does your experience as an educator factor into the way you approach writing for kids, teens and young adults?

I taught middle school English for fifteen years, so I still have the voices of more than a thousand seventh graders in my head. (That might sound scary, but really, it’s wonderful!) Having spent so much time with middle grade readers really helps me when it comes to understanding their concerns, their sense of curiosity, and their voices. My years in the classroom also left me with an even greater respect for kids as readers, thinkers, and citizens, and I think that’s essential to writing for this age group. You can’t connect with readers unless you write in a way that respects kids.

Which books, writers and illustrators have had the greatest influence on you as an author throughout your career?

When I was a young reader, my two favorite authors were Beverly Cleary and Judy Blume. I loved Beverly Cleary’s Ramona books, especially, because I saw so much of myself in excited, curious, imperfect Ramona. That’s one of the reasons I’m such a big advocate for books that reflect all kinds of kids’ lives, and that show all kinds of faces on their covers. Every child deserves their own version of my Ramona. I loved Judy Blume’s books, too, because they were great stories that pushed me to think about things that were outside my comfort zone. I could sense that she understood and respected kids, and I trusted her to tell the truth. That’s something I think about a lot in my own writing life as a result. (Thank you, Judy and Beverly!)

Thank you, Kate!

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Kate Messner

is passionately curious and writes books that encourage kids to wonder, too. Her titles include award-winning picture books with Chronicle Books, like Over and Under the Pond, Up in the Garden and Down in the Dirt, Tree of Wonder, and How to Read a Story; novels like Breakout, All the Answers, and The Seventh Wish; and the popular Ranger in Time chapter book series about a time-traveling search and rescue dog. Kate lives on Lake Champlain with her family and is trying to summit all 46 Adirondack High Peaks in between book deadlines.

 

 

Stories from Rwinkwavu

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LitWorld’s Storytellers hail from all corners of the world. They are people of all ages and genders and they communicate in many languages. Our Storytellers (whether they are LitKids, mentors, parents, or local program coordinators) amplify the intimate stories, perspectives, ideas, thoughts, words, voices, and works of individuals involved in LitWorld programs, as well as their families and community members.

With the help of our Storytellers, we are able to share the stories, sounds, colors, feelings, and art found in our partner sites in 27 countries.

We are excited to share a few stories from Rwinkwavu, Rwanda, collected by our Partnership Coordinator Jean Marie Habimana of Ready for Reading.

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Our partnership with Ready for Reading began in 2014 with the introduction of a Moms LitClub in Rwinkwavu. Since then, LitClubs and LitCamps have been established for more than 120 local girls and boys, and World Read Aloud Day and International Day of the Girl celebrations take place in the community every year. 

Jean Marie recently asked his community members one of two questions:

1) What is one thing that holds special meaning to you? Why?

2) What is something you hear adults in your life saying a lot? Why do you think they say it?

Hear their responses below.

 

What is something you hear adults in your life saying a lot? Why do you think they say it?

Sylivine

Ngoyi

 

What is one thing that holds special meaning to you? Why?

Emelitha

Mujawimana

Thank you Jean Marie, Ready for Reading, and the community of Rwinkwavu for sharing with us!

LitWorld's Young Professionals Network: Now Accepting New Recruits

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LitWorld's Young Professionals Network is a community of young leaders that aims to expand and amplify LitWorld’s impact through fundraising, advocacy, and community-building initiatives. The group represents a broad array of professional expertise and personal passions, but is unified by a commitment to LitWorld's mission. The Young Professionals Network is led by the YPN Board, a governing body of committed leaders responsible for setting and actualizing the network’s goals season-over-season.

And now, it's recruitment time for the YPN! That means for the next few weeks, we'll be highlighting current members and alumni of the YPN on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram.

If you or someone you know may be interested in joining the YPN as a leadership member—or offering time and energy in some other way to support global literacy—we hope you reach out for more information here!

Applications are currently being accepted here. Meet the network below!

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Maya Battle

Hi there! I’m Maya Battle, a longtime member and former co-chair of LitWorld’s YPN. I’ve always been a passionate reader, but I’ve also been fortunate enough to work at Penguin Random House for nearly ten years now, marketing, discussing, and dreaming up big things for a lot of books I truly love. Reading made a huge difference in my life, providing me an escape when I needed one, inspiration when the world seemed grey, and voices that articulated all of the things I wanted to say but couldn’t find the right words for. It means a lot to me that LitWorld’s advocacy is out there making new connections with children around the globe. Such an organization would have made a world of difference to me, so I hope that, especially if you’re like me and you can see yourself in the bright eyes of a child discovering something for the first time, you’ll also fall in love with LitWorld.

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Courtney Code

I’m Courtney Code, a proud member of LitWorld’s YPN board, serving this year as co-chair. My childhood was blissfully full of formative stories. A beloved friend gave me Eloise for my sixth birthday, and I swore I’d live in New York City someday (in the Plaza hotel, of course). My mom read Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone to me and my brother, chapter-by-chapter on the living room floor. I waited every day that year for my Hogwarts letter. One Christmas, my aunt and uncle wrapped Harold and the Purple Crayon up for me, and I dreamt of creating a world of my own, from nothing but a blank page.

All of these imaginings came true for me in their own ways, thanks to the power of story. I am grateful for the abundant access to literacy and education I’ve been granted, and I am committed to opening that door for all children, for all communities across the globe.

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Rosemary Derocher

Hello! I’m Rosemary Derocher, and this was my first year with LitWorld and my 24th year with books. On LitWorld’s YPN board, I support finance and fundraising, and I work in nonprofit fundraising professionally. As a kid, I did a lot of reading past my bedtime - and a lot of hiding thick books under my stomach to totally, successfully, 100% convince my parents that I was very asleep. This did not work with Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire or Eragon, but I’m pretty sure it was successful with a nice paperback copy of E.L. Konigsburg’s The Outcasts of 19 Schuyler Place.

Supporting LitWorld is important to me because it gives me a chance to use my skills and talents to support something I really care about - the power of stories. Growing up with stories gives you a better way to look at the world with greater empathy and kindness. Also, getting lost in a story is a great way to give your brain a rest and recharge, and that's something everyone needs. (That and Thneeds!)

I think right now my favorite of LitWorld’s Seven Strengths of Super Readers is “curiosity” - the desire and instinct to probe into things, ask questions, and learn more. This is something I've been trying to grow in my own life lately as well. Calvin of Calvin and Hobbes (another of my favorite, well-worn books on my shelf) provides a lot of life lessons through “do’s” and maybe a few more through his “don’ts” - but curiosity is definitely something he’s been teaching me for many years.

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Jessie Paddock

Hi! I’m Jessie Paddock and this is my second year with LitWorld. I’m proud to be part of YPN as the art of storytelling has been part of my life since I was a child, taking on many different shapes and sizes over the years. Now a writer of middle-grade and young adult fiction and a teaching artist, I’ve also worked with visual artists and as a performer in theatre and film for years. My enduring interest in narrative all began with books, though.

When I was six I wanted to be Eloise when I grew up. The next year, I had my sights set on Calvin or Hobbes (slight bias towards Calvin, but I wasn’t going to be picky), an aspiration that seemed absolutely attainable, somehow. Though I eventually realized that I’d never actually be a precocious six year old with a pet turtle living in a grand hotel (by that point I was about eight), or a rambunctious kid with a stuffed tiger as my BFF, the spirit of these characters and their stories stayed with me. My first favorite books – Eloise and Calvin & Hobbes: It’s a Magical World -- encouraged me to dream, laugh, and imagine. Simply put, literature inspired me to create.

Books, and the privilege of literacy, jump-started my imagination and eventually empowered me to generate characters and stories of my own. I’m proud to be part of LitWorld because I believe literacy has the power to encourage self-expression, communication, and play. I like to think Calvin, Hobbes and Eloise would agree.

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Ilana Solomon

I’m Ilana Solomon, the YPN’s Fundraising Chair this year, and I also work as Development Associate for LitWorld!  When I was younger, nothing made me happier than reading. Before I could read on my own, my parents would read aloud to me every night before I went to sleep (my Dad does a great dramatic reading of Shel Silverstein poetry), and when I was old enough to read on my own, I would stay up way past my bedtime reading until I fell asleep.  I even went as the purple crayon from Harold and the Purple Crayon for Halloween one year!  Reading and the power of literacy has shaped my life in so many crucial ways — I would not be the person (or bookworm) that I am today without it. LitWorld is making sure that kids across the globe can experience the joy and power that literacy brings.

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Olivia Chase

I'm Olivia Chase, the YPN's Culture point-woman this year, and I have been working with LitWorld in various volunteer capacities since 2010. I'm an English teacher, so I get asked the favorite-book question a lot, but for me books are a kind of religion and favorites are always in flux -- there should be a word for book-kismet, when books find you at the right time. Right now, I'm reading Krik Krak by Edwidge Danticat, and I'm teaching The Giver and American Born Chinese to sixth and eighth graders. When I think about what literacy means to me more broadly, I think LitWorld's founder, Pam Allyn, put it best:

"Literacy has inevitably changed your life for the better. Literacy wakes us to awareness of the world, of the beauty in it, and the sorrows of it too. Literacy is something we want others to fall in love with, the way we've gotten to. From the oral tradition to the written forms, literacy connects us to others, makes us stronger, braver, better, more knowing, more questioning.

It is never something that if you have it, someone else will have less of it. It's something every single person on earth can have while not depleting something else. If more people have it, more people will be better off for it.

It is the essence of how democracy is built and how we converse and relate, connect and fulfill dreams. It is the essence of peace."

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Eric de Lemos

Hi there, fellow human. I’m Eric, the LitWorld Young Professional Secretary for this year. From when I was very young, my mom impressed the importance of reading on me and I still think of how it’s shaped me into who I am today. In the beginning she would read to me, but as I got older I found it was I who really enjoyed reading back to her - it left me with a deep sense of satisfaction and accomplishment. Now that I’m older, I understand that there is one thing that unlocks all opportunity in the world: literacy. It’s important to me that everyone has the same opportunity for success that I had. LitWorld’s global programs encourage self-expression, build understanding, and cultivate confidence in the leaders of tomorrow.

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Angela Januzzi

Hey there, people who care about the world. I’m Angela Januzzi, the new Outreach & Community Coordinator for LitWorld’s Young Professionals Network. I’ve been lucky to work for both book publishing and non-profits, but before that there wasn’t much in life that could both calm me down and wake me, up all at once, like the acts reading and writing.

While many people’s lives are enriched through the escapism reading offers, for me reading and writing were how I first processed my own immense desire to simply know more about the world, when I felt I couldn’t find those answers from my immediate surroundings. And then the more I read, the more I wrote. And the less afraid I was to then transfer those observations from sheer words into acts of real, true experience.

LitWorld directly supports programming and communities for kids who, otherwise, might not have had such life-changing interactions through reading and writing. Yes. But what makes LitWorld *especially* vital is just how grassroots its work is. Its entire model is built upon partnerships with local literacy organizations around the planet, and with very little bureaucracy. I personally believe LitWorld’s work with literacy groups, throughout the U.S. and the globe, isn’t just essential to greater equality for all of us — it’s also maybe one of the best models for worldwide literacy that you could ever want to support. Hope you join us soon. <3

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Remy Olsen

Hi! My name is Remy Olsen and this is my second year being a part of the amazing LitWorld’s YPG. Having a mother in publishing, books were a large part of my childhood. One book took the cake though, as I probably read Corduroy a million times. His adventures and undeniable cutest made me his #1 fan. His likability has survived the battle against time as Corduroy is my niece’s favorite stuffed animal.

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Samantha Siegal

Hi! I’m Sam Siegal, a proud co-chair of the LitWorld YPN board. Some of my favorite books to read when I was little were from the Nancy Drew series…what could be better than a butt-kicking girl detective?? I’m honored to be part of the LitWorld family because reading and writing gave me a voice as a strange, mystery-loving little girl and every child must have the right to express their own strange in their own way. LitWorld is changing the world through super smart programming that does just this – please help us spread the lit love!

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Caelyn Cobb

I’m Caelyn Cobb, the incoming YPN leadership team co-chair for the 2018-2019 year. By day, I’m an editor for nonfiction books on global history and international politics at Columbia University Press. I started working with LitWorld in 2016 during my capstone project for grad school at NYU, traveling to Haiti to help train LitClub mentors. Seeing the important work LitWorld does to help create a love of learning in kids of all ages firsthand was inspiring. I joined the YPN after finishing the project and I’ve been proud to support LitWorld ever since.


I’ve come a long way since Mickey Mouse’s Books of Opposites, but I still get excited about getting  my hands on a new book. As a kid I loved Ella Enchanted, Nancy Drew, and my illustrated encyclopedia; today I love Gillian Flynn’s mysteries and any new books about politics. Your tastes (and reading level) may grow up, but LitWorld has shown me that the joyful reader inside never truly does.