Jeannie Blaustein is a founding member of the LitWorld Board of Directors, a current member of the LitWorld Advisory Council, longtime friend, supporter, and inspiration. A graduate from Brown University with Honors in history; she received an MA in history from NYU, and then shifted her studies to pursue a doctorate in Clinical Psychology, and and a Doctorate of Ministry from Hebrew Union College-Jewish Institute of Religion. A licensed clinical psychologist, Jeannie worked in the Barnard College Counseling Service for several years, and has served as an Adjunct Supervisor to City College’s Doctoral Program in Clinical Psychology and to rabbinic students at HUC- JIR.
What drew you to LitWorld?
Pam. Well, that's not quite a complete answer, let me elaborate.
There are great organizations out there, but Pam's vision for education is vibrant, compelling, and uncomplicated. LitWorld's message, that the power of story, specifically the power of one's own story, is the gateway to literacy, is organic, accessible, and relevant for everyone. LitWorld's approach is innovative, dynamic, well-rounded, and do-able. Pam's vision for global literacy as a universal right touches people in intimate and personal ways which enables kids and adults to get in touch with the power of story and the power of reading to change their lives.
Can you share a special reading memory, or a time when reading felt powerful to you?
When I was young my mother would read Mary Poppins to me. My sister and I would play the flying angel game; my sister would lie on her back with her feet on my belly, and I would "fly" over her on her feet. As I "flew" and looked down behind her headboard, I could see all of the characters from Mary Poppins coming to life behind her bed. It sounds so silly, but I was convinced that the story was real! All happening right behind my sister's bed. Of course I look back on this moment and see the metaphor woven in, stories and reading really do open your mind to what is possible beyond your own life. It creates the possibility for new realities.
I am a big believer that you have to dream, that the secret of success really is about possibility. You have to have a North Star to follow in order to achieve any goal. That's what reading can do, it can open your mind. It's the ticket upward, inward, or outward, whichever way your dream may lie.
What excites you about LitWorld's work?
I love the Girls LitClubs. I love this idea that connecting education with empowerment, self worth, community, and possibility, will create vibrant, literate, young women. I've seen the way the clubs build a greater sense of self in the girls and a greater sense of pride in their communities. The clubs have found a way to fill a missing piece in the global education community. They're not hard, they're not expensive, but they work.
How do you describe LitWorld to other people?
LitWorld is a terrific young literacy organization founded by a dear, brilliant and visionary friend of mine, Pam Allyn. The message is elegant and simple: Literacy is THE ticket out of poverty and hopelessness. Pam recognizes that everyone has a story to tell. When honored and mentored, that story can be the launching pad to strong and personal longings toward writing and reading, and from telling one's own story, we see over and over again that literacy emerges organically in even the most remote and impoverished communities. LitWorld has established Girls LitClubs - like little reading hubs for girls - all over the world, from Harlem to the Philippines! Girls hike barefoot through rough rural villages, take boats, walk through slums to get to these little oases of community, sanctuaries of support and possibility.