Behind the Book

My friend, Chris, has been involved with the organization Behind the Book, for a while.  Fred and I have made a donation to this organization for the past 2 years and will continue to do so. 

There are a few things that I like about this group.  First off, I am a huge reader and believe that reading books is powerful on many levels.  Behind the Book works with low income students to excite these kids about reading ( as well as literacy which goes hand in hand with reading).  I am always hopeful that groups like Behind the Book and MOUSE ( who I have been involved with for years ) break a cycle of poverty.  If these organizations can effect one kid a day to dream big, continue their education and create a better life for themselves, they have made an impact in the world.

Through MOUSE, I had met kids from elementary school through high school that have no roof over their head, drug addict parents, parents in jail, been abused, etc.  As my kids are incredibly lucky to have opportunities that other kids can never even dream about, I have always felt ( and taught our kids ) that is important to give back and hopefully make a change in someone else's life.  I particularly like giving to organizations that work with kids because the impact early on has a much better chance before you lose them to another cycle of despair.

My friend who is involved with Behind the Book sent me a note from someone who happened to be in a school yesterday watching an event that Behind the Book put together.  What she witnessed is the reason we continue to support organizations like Behind the Book and MOUSE.

Today I went on a wonderful visit at Central Park East Middle School with Chris.  The author was Zetta Elliott who wrote a book called Bird.  The book was illustrated by Shadra Strickland who yesterday won a Coretta Scott King /John Steptoe Award for New Talent from the American Library Association for her work. 
These 6th graders were incredibly prepared and Ms. Elliott was nothing short of amazing.  It was a tremendous reminder of why what Behind the Book does is so important.  Ms. Elliott, as a part of her presentation, told the kids about her own drug addicted and incarcerated brother and asked the kids how many of them were familiar with going to prison to visit relatives.  Hands flew up.  She also spoke about how the creation of art can liberate you from the immense burden and embarrassment of those kinds of relationships.  The kids were mesmerized.  They saw themselves in every word she spoke.
I assure you that many of those kids will remember that visit for a long time to come…here was an amazingly poised, cultured,and educated (complete with PhD) African-American (via Canada) author who had gone through many of the trials and tribulations of every day life that the kids we serve go through.  To watch the recognition in their eyes that they could be as successful as her one day brought tears to my eyes.

Comments (Archived):

  1. tom L

    Gotham Gal? you’ve got to read “108th Street” by T David Lee. Great story about growing up in NYC in the 1950s. Like your work here, keep it p.

  2. Zetta

    Thanks so much for spreading the word about my book, BIRD, and most especially about the *great* work done by Chris and Behind the Book. I’ve worked in NYC schools for years, and can’t imagine anything more generous or life-changing than giving books to children who may not have access to books at home. Having artists in the classroom is also inspiring–those students were *amazing* and I’m honored to have had the experience, and for it to be remarked upon in here. Thanks!

    1. Gotham Gal

      My pleasure. I really loved your books! Keep writing.