The Big Read Blog (Archive)

Reading Between the Lines: A Q&A with Boundless Readers

Chicago, Illinois

A Big Read, Chicago Style panel discussion facilitated in Spanish by one of Boundless Readers? Big Read partners, contratiempo, a Chicago-based nonprofit literary and publishing center. Photo courtesy of Boundless Readers

For more than 20 years, Boundless Readers has been dedicated to the mission of developing a love of reading in Chicago?s youth, which is why The Big Read program, and its mission of inspiring people across the country to pick up a good book, is such a great fit. For its second Big Read, Chicago Style, Boundless Readers developed a series of bilingual activities focused on engaging the parents and families of Chicago public school students as well as community members. Mary Hicks, executive director of Boundless Readers, took some time out of her busy last week of Big Read events to tell us more about her community?s project.

NEA: Why did you feel Bless Me, Ultima would be a good fit for your community?

MARY HICKS: We selected Bless Me, Ultima for a couple of reasons. There are more than 1.5 million Latinos living in the Chicagoland area. Of those, 1.3 million are of Mexican descent, making it the largest ethnic group in the Chicago area. That, and the fact that Bless Me, Ultima is available in English and Spanish, gives it widespread appeal to Chicago?s Latino community.

NEA: What has been the biggest surprise from your experience with The Big Read?

HICKS: As part of The Big Read, Chicago Style, Boundless Readers conducted more than 100 book discussion groups in English and Spanish during October and November at Chicago public schools. We?re encouraged by the number of members of our community partner organizations and Chicago public schools teachers that volunteer to train with us to become The Big Read, Chicago Style discussion group facilitators, and by the hundreds of parents, students, teachers, administrators, and community members who actively participate in our groups.

NEA: More than 70 Chicago public schools are your partners in The Big Read. Why was it important to your program to develop this connection within the schools?

HICKS: Boundless Readers is the leading provider of literacy-based professional development and resources to Chicago public schools. Ultimately, our goal is to help children develop into lifelong readers, learners, and thinkers who not only know how to read, but do so frequently, widely and willingly. The Big Read speaks to Boundless Readers? mission to develop passionate readers. It serves as an additional vehicle for us to engage parents and teachers in literature and, by extension, in the reading lives of children. They are crucial role models for children to become lifelong readers.

NEA: Any last words?

HICKS: Boundless Readers is thrilled to once again receive NEA?s grant for The Big Read. Reading for pleasure is on the decline across all age groups and all ethnicities. And the academic, economic, social, and political effects are demonstrable. On the flip side, strong readers earn more, vote more, and have more rewarding career opportunities. So it?s crucial that we utilize programs like The Big Read to engage parents, through teachers, to become active participants in their children?s literacy development.

For more information about Rudolfo Anaya and Bless Me, Ultima, visit The Big Read website.

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