Sunday, April 5, 2015

Literacy: Spanning the U.S. – Alameda Co CA :: Rowan Co NC :: Aurora IL

Alameda County: Librarian connects incarcerated youths to lesser-known writers
Contra Costa Times: 3.11.2015 by Lou Fancher

Literacy can save a life -- or at least define one.
Manifested in the personal and professional life of librarian and advocate Amy Cheney, the idea comes to full fruition for the incarcerated youths at the Alameda County Juvenile Justice Center.

Cheney's "Write to Read" program brings library services and materials to underserved youth. The 54-year-old Oakland resident has won the "I Love My Librarian" award from the Carnegie Institution and The New York Times and was honored at the White House with a National Arts and Humanities Youth Program Award.

The library program she has helmed at the center since 2000 is funded by the Alameda County Library and the county's education and probation departments.

Expanding her sphere of influence, Cheney created the annual "In the Margins Award" in 2013. After the School Library Journal published lists of the top books the 250 kids in her facility were excited about reading, Cheney realized greater attention could come to the authors and small presses whose stories about people of color resonated with incarcerated youth.

"What's important is that the whole world of books revolves around reviews," Cheney says. "If a book doesn't get reviewed, it doesn't get attention."

Furthermore, incarcerated kids represent "niche readership" and the books available to them in juvenile detention centers are limited. The restrictions, like most things in Cheney's life, are simple constructs that flower into complexity under close scrutiny.  READ MORE !

On February 28, the conversation group quietly celebrated its 100th consecutive Saturday meeting. You'd have to go back to March, 2013, to find a Saturday when there wasn't a conversation at the library. It seems fitting that the milestone event occurred with volunteer Debbie Angello, of Aurora, leading. Angello, the library's longest serving tutor, has been volunteering here once a month since 2009.

The Waubonsee-Aurora Public Library partnership began in 2008 when librarian Tina Viglucci and some volunteers started offering conversations at the library twice per month. The conversations caught on, and participants began requesting that they meet every Saturday. So Elsie Mills, the volunteer tutor coordinator at Waubonsee Community College Adult Literacy Project, helped recruit a few more volunteers. Now, thanks to their efforts, the library is able to offer conversations every SaturdayREAD MORE !

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