Our Book Group Model
Literature for All of Us works with traditional and alternative schools, community organizations, the juvenile justice system, and workforce development programs to improve the literacy development of participants across Chicago and Evanston, IL. Led by a professional Teaching Artist, each trauma-informed book group meets weekly for 90 minutes. Activities include opening and closing rituals, reading aloud, discussion of select texts, a poetry writing exercise, and sharing with the group. Each month, participants receive 1–2 new copies of the books they read and discuss together. They often attend field trips, retreats, family literacy nights, and yearly Poetry Bashes! Our innovative model instills a love of reading and writing that empowers individuals and enables them to realize their potential at home, school, work — and in the world.
Our teaching artists engage and activate youth through thoughtfully developed curriculum focusing on themes and authors relevant to their cultural identities and experiences. Literature for All of Us' trauma-informed, holistic approach has been honed over 22 years of program delivery. In 2016, 72% of participants identified as readers and writers upon completing their book group experience.
As the nation grapples with the inequities of the justice system and ongoing issues of race, misogyny, poverty and substandard educational opportunities, there is increased urgency for programming that unpacks and contextualizes systems of oppression. In all of our book groups, we use literature as a tool to facilitate conversations on these themes through culturally relevant books. It is especially pertinent in our work with incarcerated and court-involved youth through our partnerships with Curt’s Cafe, the Juvenile Temporary Detention Center and Central State SER.
Developed in response to the need to teach young parents how to share their own developing love of reading with their children, our Empowering Parents, Inspiring Children (EPIC) program has become an integral piece of our basic book group programming. The purpose of the Empowering Parents, Inspiring Children (EPIC) program is to combat the cycle of low literacy in economically disadvantaged groups. By providing teen parents with high-quality books for their children, we help families build home libraries. Parents living in poverty can create literacy-rich environments and ensure positive academic outcomes for their children with the support of effective, multi-generational literacy programs.
Creating safe spaces which foster community and personal resiliency, our LGBTQ+ programming provides queer and trans* people access to literature by queer and trans* authors. Partner sites include The Crib, a shelter of the Night Ministry that accommodates LGBTQ+ young people experiencing homelessness, TransWorks, and Lurie Children's Hospital. .
Literature for All of Us’ award-winning curriculum supplements workforce development training by building soft-skills such as perseverance, conflict resolution and self-esteem enhancement. Participants enter the workforce having created a supportive network of peers whose sustenance helps to ensure success on the job. We currently serve women and men at two Curt's Cafe locations in Evanston and trainees enrolled at Chicago Women in Trades.
Special Program Events
We augment our programs with special guest poets, storytellers, and artists who share their work with students. Throughout the year, we take field trips to various performances, artistic workshops, and cultural venues, especially libraries. We host yearly, overnight writing retreats at country houses loaned to us by volunteers. At these retreats, reflective writing is combined with nature walks, games and art activities. Hikes and campfires are favorite activities, since few of our participants have experienced life outside of the city. Last, we host two Poetry Bashes! per year, inviting participants to perform their work in front of an audience of their peers at either Loyola University or the Poetry Foundation.