When you think of why you love reading, I bet you think of times you spent with someone you love. A parent, a sibling, a special teacher; whoever it is, I guarantee that your love of reading comes from the time you shared with that person. That’s why reading clubs are so successful!
Last summer, Reader to Reader decided to bring that same experience to teen moms and their children, two groups that are at high risk of low literacy and academicfailure.
This August, the Athena Interactive Literacy Program will again feature a week-long workshop that works with pregnant and parenting teens in order to build their reading and writing skills, and to explore healthy eating and cooking. The young mothers in the program currently attend The Care Center in Holyoke, Massachusetts, where they are working on getting their G.E.D.s so they can attend college. Athena supplements their studies, giving them a dynamic week of exploration that moves beyond test taking to help them discover the joy of being a student.
The program brings together an exciting team of educators, writers, and artists, including noted writing teacher Peter Elbow, illustrious author Norton Juster, and Chef Bill Collins, a graduate of the Cambridge School of Culinary Arts with over 15 years professional experience, including the Ritz-Carlton Hotel in Boston. The students spend mornings exploring reading and writing in a variety of interesting settings, including recording poetry at a professional recording studio, and
afternoons are dedicated to learning to cook healthy food for themselves and their children.
All activities strongly emphasize family literacy. To engage both mother and child in literacy, art teacher Julie Zuchman (pictured below) gave a wonderful class in board book making so that the young mothers can share a handmade book with their children. One mother created a book to chronicle the family’s journey to their new home in Florida that next week. Another said “I read to [my son] every night, definitely, it’s important.” Executive Director David Mazor says, “When they sit and read a book to their child, that child will want to hold the book themselves.” The mothers are encouraged to use their creative writing skills to create a world of
possibility for their children, even from the cradle.
These young women are accomplishing so much with their lives: “I’m young, I’m still going to school, and I gotta keep my head up.” The Athena Interactive Literacy Program strives to give these moms a leg up in their own education and health, and the skills they need to give their kids the same opportunity.