The Holiday Spirit

there was energyby Abby Harris-Ridker

The week before winter break is always a hectic time in book groups. The students are ready for vacation, the teachers are piling on tests, and there are holiday parties and spirit weeks at the schools. But, we also make book group a special time. We bring our students books or journals as holiday gifts, sometimes we engage in a special curriculum or art projects, and we get to be a place where our students can take a breath and talk about what’s going on for them in the final weeks of the year.

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Trunk or Treat

trunk or treatBy Erin Brown


This year Peace and Education Coalition High School, our long-term partner in the Back of the Yards neighborhood, hosted its first “Trunk or Treat” event in the parking lot of its Second Chance campus. Just before dusk on Tuesday, October 30th, a group of about twenty cars formed a loose circle with trunks open and facing out.

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There is no easy walk to freedom: inside work with refugee students

no easy walk to freedom nelson mandelaBy Abby Harris-Ridker

“There is no easy walk to freedom…” - Nelson Mandela.

I started our book group with this quote at Sullivan High School, where I work with a group of English Language Learners from all over the world.

“What is freedom?” I asked.

One student responded, “Freedom is when you’re free.”

“Yes,” I said, “But what does it mean to be free? How do you know if you’re free?”

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Working with Young Men at Central States SER

by Vanessa Borjon

Central States SER (SER) is a workforce development and education organization that believes in the potential of each and every individual. The atmosphere at SER is super lively—the walls are covered in colorful murals and there always seems to be music bumping from somewhere, and inside other classrooms you can hear laughter, chatter, or sometimes more serious conversation happening.

My first book group happened at SER on September 11th. There were about eight young men in the room, plus their teacher, Moises, and the program director, Pete. Pete facilitated a short opening with the group where we went around the circle and introduced ourselves and shared what we were feeling. After that, I started book group and for a first day it went as expected: the group was quiet and a bit hesitant to share, but there was still just enough curiosity to keep them engaged.

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