Meet LitWorld Teen Advocate, Grace Cen

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This summer as an LTA, I met a group of other young, career-oriented girls of color. During our time at LitWorld, we learned about the gift of literacy. I think we, as Americans who receive a free education, tend to take literacy for granted. Even in society, it is often overshadowed by the sciences. But literacy is essential. It is the means of communication and connection between say me, a Chinese-American high-school sophomore, and a teenager in Kenya, someone who may have a totally different lifestyle. Being able to read and write also allows access to career opportunities. So the fact that 2/3 of the world's illiterate population is women and girls shows the continual social and financial segregation. Being an LTA to me means helping to close this social gap. From a very young age, I have grown up in an environment that highly values education. And through my parents’ continual efforts to learn English and the education system, I feel like I've been able to more fully integrate into my community. I'm extremely thankful and hope to allow others to do the same through LitWorld.

During the internship, LTAs learned about LitWorld’s goal of spreading literacy. We also helped organize a LitFest. We prepared various activities and went to a branch of the NYPL to try and engage with the kids firsthand. I think all the LTAs hope to continue forward with LitWorld, to try and change the world with stories.

Back to School: Tips for Cultivating Social-Emotional Learning


Let’s think beyond the back-to-school logistics for a moment--put aside the homework, early wake-up calls, and overloaded book bags. Let’s expand our scope to include social and emotional learning this school year to help our kids grow into strong, confident, understanding learners--in school and beyond.  

Here are four things you can do to encourage strength-based growth for your kids and students.

1. Ask Questions to Encourage Curiosity

Children who ask questions will learn to anticipate both problems and solutions. A willingness to explore and test new concepts will unearth countless opportunities for children and they’ll develop an analytic skill that can be transferred to school and beyond. Model that behavior by asking open-ended questions about stories you read and hear to help children learn how to think critically and creatively. 

2. Set a Reading Routine for Confidence and Belonging

If you can, take your kids to the local bookstore and let them pick out a brand new picture book, chapter book, or graphic novel--let it be anything that speaks to them! Giving them agency over what they read will grow their confidence and keep them happily exploring new texts. Then, bring your family together with a fun and engaging read aloud session after dinner or on a weekend afternoon that the kids are sure to love. Get everyone involved in their favorite part!

3. Set Goals for the School Year 

Help your kids think through what is important to them. Is it reading more words or minutes than last year? Maybe their goal is to make a new friend or join a Scout troop. These are awesome examples that exhibit kindness and the idea of belonging to a community--both of which can and should be developed. Whatever their interests, help them set smart, reachable goals for their year. 

4. Understand and Recognize Courage

Back to school can be a difficult transition time. Learning, even when in a routine, can be hard for some kids. The struggles children face, whether it is bullying, difficulty in a sleep routine, or just getting through school, are very real. It takes courage and confidence to handle these hiccups as a kid. Reinforce their positive behavior and ensure them that they are not alone.

When we focus on finding kids’ inherent strengths, allow them to make choices, and teach them to be resilient, you are providing the foundation for powerfully positive ways of communicating and interacting with the world. In this way, we can help all children define their story and find their path to achieve their dreams. 

Joyce Finds the Joy in LitClub

Joyce Garba is the Partnership Coordinator at Nigeria Reads and YiSHDA, establishing and building a strong working relationship between LitWorld and its Nigerian partners. 

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Working with all organizations has created a massive impact all around me, beginning with myself and the members of my beautiful small community. I cannot help but share some of my experiences.

On Thursday, February 16, 2017, we celebrated World Read Aloud Day, one of LitWorld’s advocacy days. We focused on celebrating in schools, inviting kids outside of LitClub to join us as well. All arrangements were in place to celebrate on Thursday morning and everything seemed perfect, but what some of my team members did not know was that I had a visa interview that same morning. The interview was to determine whether or not I was going to participate in-person with other ambassadors around the world in the 2017 Global HerStory Summit. The Global HerStory Summit is one which brings together women and girls from different parts of the world to share their stories and create action plans for challenges they face in their communities. It is a lovely gathering that gives girls and mentors the opportunity to create long lasting friendships and beautiful memories. Oh, lest I forget, it is hosted in New York, a beautiful city that I have heard so much about and anticipated visiting someday, so this summit really meant a lot. Preparations were tough--I did so much research about a visa interview before my first time and on that fateful Thursday I believed I was set. I had failed the first one, in my mind there was no chance I could be denied again.

I stood there confidently before the interviewer, looking him in the face and giving him all the  answers to his questions and after the interview I walked out smiling, feeling bold and powerful.

A few minutes later, I was standing again before the participants of World Read Aloud Day. I found out had failed the interview, but I realized I wasn’t deeply upset by the news. I was standing before beautiful kids, with mind-blowing dreams and promising aspirations for their futures. The smiles on their faces, the answers to the questions all dawned gradually on me. I did not feel weakened even after I lost the interview again, because at the end it was a win-win situation. I would not be able to attend the summit, but I had these kids everywhere around me. I could make an impact all the time, anywhere, all because LitWorld has these different powerful programs and the joy one feels while engaging in them is indescribable.

Mentoring members from different backgrounds is a fulfilling opportunity, right from that little girl who lost her father at an early age and nurtures her dream to become a doctor and save lives, to that young teenage girl who was forced into marriage. They all still love to come back for LitClub. The programs and weekly meetings give them hope, they wake up every day expecting a better world and working to make it that way.

So who am I to give up, if these young ones can be so strong? Leaving the interview venue and coming down to hold a LitWorld program made me feel powerful. I didn’t have to go home and feel disappointed, I went over to put smiles on the faces of children and it was uplifting. The smiles on their faces, their heart-melting questions and statements make you long to raise children. Life has become more purposeful and all this is because we found LitWorld. Long live LitWorld.

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7 Strengths Picks for International Literacy Day 2017

This International Literacy Day, we celebrate the strengths of readers all around the world, and the strengths that stories give us. We believe that literacy is about so much more than decoding, spelling, and composition. Literacy is the tool we use to understand the world around us and create new worlds all our own. Young people can read stories of courage and share their own stories of hope. Books can satisfy our curiosities and guide us towards new questions. Writing a poem can help us find confidence in ourselves, a kind note can be the building block of a friendship. Literacy lets us know we belong.                      

Our 7 Strengths framework goes hand-in-hand with the kind of literacy that changes lives. Check out some of the latest additions to our 7 Strengths Library (courtesy of our interns!) and join us as we honor the transformational power of literacy.                


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Belonging: Not Quite Narwhal by Jessie Sima

As Kelp tries to find his true home, he learns that family doesn't have to look like you or act like you--they just have to love you. 

Curiosity: They All Saw A Cat by Brendan Wenze

This clever picture book shows the importance of perspective and imagination as a curious cat explores it's surroundings.                                                                                                                                                                                     

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Friendship: Together Always by Edwina Wyatt, Illustrated by Lucia Masciullo

Together Always follows best friends Goat and Pig as they find their own way and prove that true friendship can go the distance.

Kindness: We're All Wonders by R.J. Palacio

Based on the memorable characters from her bestselling novel, Wonder, R.J. Palacio teaches us all to always choose kind. 

Confidence: Despite the Height by Ivory Latta and Charles R. Smith, Jr., Illustrated by D.J. Coffman

Despite the Height shares the true story of WNBA all-star Ivory Latta, and teaches kids to preservere through obstacles and believe in themselves to reach new heights.

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Courage: Jabari Jumps by Gaia Cornwall

Jabari is almost ready to jump from the diving board, but first needs some encouragement to embrace his fears in order to overcome them.

Hope: The Journey by Francesca Sanna

Through beautiful illustrations and writing, Francesca Sanna captures the challenges, strengths, and dreams of refugees starting a new life in a new land.


UNESCO's International Literacy Day is recognized annually on September 8. Learn more here