Literature for All of Us brings a love of reading to Chicago students

CHICAGO (WLS) -- Ensuring all children are inspired by literature is the focus of Disney's Magic of Storytelling Campaign and an organization in Chicago has brought the rewards of reading to students across the city.

Literature for All of Us has brought a love of literature straight to the classroom by holding weekly book clubs at schools like Simpson Academy for Young Women.

"Many of the alternative schools have actually allowed the flexibility to include this program in part of their day. So all of the participants come from one class into this class and after the hour or hour and a half that we get to spend with them they then move on to the next class," said Lauren Berndt, the Director of Operations of Literature for All of Us.

Simpson Academy for Young Women is the only Chicago Public School devoted to preparing teen mothers for success in the future. Anthony Betori is the book club leader at the school and said this program is one of the longest running and the most unique.

"At Simpson we do a special program, Empowering Parents Inspiring Children, EPIC programming. What we're doing is building whole family literacy. So we're building the literacy of the mothers who come to school here but also engaging them with strategies of how to also build the literacy of their children. How to read with their kids, how to have books in the home. Things like that," said Literature for All of Us Book Group Leader Anthony Betori.

Betori said reading is the focus of the program but it goes far beyond books and students agree.

"I think it's really important to have the time to talk about identity, talking about experience, talking about trauma creating spaces where people can explore resilience together and in a community," said Betori.

"I've had Anthony as book leader for the past two years and I just feel like we've built this bond that you know we're able to talk about anything," said Adrienne Scanlon-Rodriguez, a senior at Simpson Academy for Young Women. "This book group helps me know that I'm not alone. When we read a story we connect with it. It's good when you're able to share connections with other people and you see that other people feel the same way just as you and you're not alone in certain situations."

Karen Thomson the Founder and Executive Director of Literature for All of Us sat down with ABC 7 to talk about the organization's work and what parts of the community they plan to focus on next.

As part of Disney's Magic of Storytelling ABC 7 presented Literature for All of Us with a check for $2,500. The organization will also receive a donation of 1,000 books from First Book.
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