Events

Spotlight on Sue Britt: The Artist Behind "The Radius of All of Us"

An image of Sue Britt smiling into the camera.

An image of Sue Britt smiling into the camera.

At Words Alive, we strive to inspire young people to read by showing them how words on a page can relate to their own lives and even transform into something new. Once a year, we welcome our Adolescent Book Group (ABG) students to participate in our Art & Lit Project, a program-wide project that enhances the reading experience and encourages them to think critically about themes in the book and their own environment.

This year’s project, called "The Radius of All of Us" is a response to The Radius of Us by Marie Marquardt. This unique exhibition is designed by community artist Sue Britt, facilitated by Words Alive, and created by students attending alternative schools from North County to the border!

Sue Britt is a San Diego paper artist who has developed a technique she calls Paper Tapestry. Her highly textured work is a result of layering, carving, and weaving substraights wrapped in paper to create highly textured landscapes. Her landscapes are full of motion. That motion is inspired by hiking and influenced by reading and thinking about change in the landscape over seasons, years, or millennia. She works and shows her art in Studio 34A in the Spanish Village Art Center and in festivals throughout California.

Sue is delighted to take part in the Words Alive Art & Lit Exhibit, tying together her love of reading and her love of creating. A project like this allows her to step outside her usual medium and approach the project with the experience of the student in mind, giving them a way to express themselves both individually and as part of a group. Art, both in book and visual forms, can be a powerful way to examine a life, an experience, an idea, and give the public a window into those conversations.

Sue heard about Words Alive through friends who sit on the board and by attending the Author’s Luncheon & Fundraiser for multiple years. She fell in love with our mission and truly believes that reading opens doors for people. She was excited to work with Words Alive because she knows that art would be a new way for these students to think about what they were reading. “Visual art allows for the same finding of meaning as words do in a book.”

An image of Sue Britt talking with students from Lindsay Community School as they work on their art.

An image of Sue Britt talking with students from Lindsay Community School as they work on their art.

The Radius of All of Us is about perception. The characters in The Radius of Us perceive and are perceived in ways that evolve as their stories and personalities are better known to others. Perceptions and the words we use to describe other people and ourselves create the radius of each of us; each word forming a boundary of limitations.

Sue said that her own perceptions were challenged in an interaction with one particular student at Monarch School. With this one particular student, Sue went over to her and poured the “proper” amount of alcohol ink on her piece, intending to help her complete the art correctly. The student percieved this act as her vision being interrupted and she told Sue, not intimidated, “Now this art is yours.” For Sue, this was a moment of learning that really stood out to her throughout this process. She realized that although she had a vision for this piece and was thinking about it as a process for the students to follow and execute, for the students this was all about personal expression. They aren’t often allowed to express themselves through art and this was a real chance for them to pour themselves onto the page. Sue apologized to the student and got her a new piece of paper to start over with.

We were so thankful to work with Sue on this art project and to see her vision come to life through the creativity of our students. Join us from 6 to 8 p.m. Wednesday, June 5th at the San Diego Art Institute, 1439 El Prado in San Diego to see the final pieces of artwork in person! RSVP for the event here. Learn more about Sue Britt here.


In conjunction with this project, and in partnership with Jewish Family Service, we are collecting donations of new socks and underwear for Jewish Family Service’s new shelter for asylum seekers. Please donate new socks and underwear for children in all sizes and for adults in size small. Bring items to the Words Alive office through June 5 or to the exhibition at San Diego Art Institute.




The Radius of All of Us: Words Alive's Annual Art & Lit Exhibit

At Words Alive, we believe that reading becomes truly exciting, joyful and inspiring to young people when they see how words on a page can relate to their own lives and even transform into something new.

Once a year, we work to bring books alive in a different way for our ABG students by welcoming them to participate in our Art & Lit Project. ABG students participate in a program-wide project that enhances the reading experience and encourages them to think critically about themes in the book and their own environment – all while having fun and creating their very own piece of art.

Words Alive's Adolescent Book Group brings books alive for teenagers facing extraordinary circumstances such as homelessness, violence, teen pregnancy and impact by the justice system. Trained Words Alive facilitators deliver a Common Core-aligned curriculum of hands-on projects, creative writing exercises and discussion prompts specifically designed to spark students’ love of reading, enhance critical thinking skills and boost self-esteem.

About the Book

This year’s project, called "The Radius of All of Us" is a response to The Radius of Us by Marie Marquardt.

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Ninety seconds can change a life — not just daily routine, but who you are as a person. Gretchen Asher knows this, because that’s how long a stranger held her body to the ground.

Ninety seconds can change a life — not just the place you live, but the person others think you are. Phoenix Flores-Flores knows this, because months after setting off toward the U.S. / Mexico border in search of safety for his brother, he finally walked out of detention.

Ninety seconds can change a life — so how will the ninety seconds of Gretchen and Phoenix’s first encounter change theirs?

Through working on this project, students will connect the novel to their world by exploring themes of perception and transformation while grappling with the complex issues of trauma and immigration.

About the Art

This thought-provoking work, designed by community artist Sue Britt, showcases the deep ways in which students can connect literature to art, themselves and the world.

The characters in the The Radius of Us perceive and are perceived in ways that evolve as their stories and personalities are better known to others. Perceptions and the words we use to describe other people and ourselves create the radius of each of us; each word forming a boundary of limitations.

Words around the circle represent labels that are placed on the student by others or themselves.

Words around the circle represent labels that are placed on the student by others or themselves.

But as we trust enough to share our inner selves, our circle can expand and be blown wide open; although, as realized through literally blowing alcohol ink across the page with a straw, breaking these boundaries can be a challenging process with unexpected results. And still, the words that make up our circle do not go away but remain part of our transformed selves.

Relationships are represented in the work through each drop of ink within the circle. Initially, each drop forms a hard edge, but as drops collide and interact with one another, they change shape and color to symbolize the ways our relationships with others affect who we are. Behind each work, a transparent color reflects the light we shine on those around us.

Each student’s radius, created on translucent paper, comes together with their peers’ work to form a phoenix – a mythological bird reborn from its ashes – a symbol of how trust and sharing with others can lead to personal growth and transformation.

To see the culmination of our students’ work, and the final phoenixes, join us for a reception from 6 to 8 p.m. Wednesday, June 5th at the San Diego Art Institute, 1439 El Prado in San Diego. RSVP for the event here.


In conjunction with this project, and in partnership with Jewish Family Service, we are collecting donations of new socks and underwear for Jewish Family Service’s new shelter for asylum seekers. Please donate new socks and underwear for children in all sizes and for adults in size small. Bring items to the Words Alive office through June 5 or to the exhibition at San Diego Art Institute.


Words Alive's 10th Annual Volunteer Appreciation Event!

By Tait Longhi, Blog Intern & Sara Mortensen, Communications Manager

An image of our Volunteer Appreciation Event. Volunteer Program Manager, Christina Meeker, stands at the podium in front of a screen that says “Volunteer Appreciation Event." Volunteers mingling over lunch also appear in the image.

An image of our Volunteer Appreciation Event. Volunteer Program Manager, Christina Meeker, stands at the podium in front of a screen that says “Volunteer Appreciation Event." Volunteers mingling over lunch also appear in the image.

On Friday April 5th, the community of Words Alive staff, volunteers, donors and supports joined together at the San Diego Public Library to celebrate the many special volunteers that help our organization run so smoothly. As we often say at Words Alive, the volunteers are the lifeblood of our organization.

An image of two of our incredible volunteers, Karen Mailn & Margie Roehm laughing at the camera.

An image of two of our incredible volunteers, Karen Mailn & Margie Roehm laughing at the camera.

At noon, everyone filed into the event space, where there were smiles and excitement all around. In an effort to connect volunteers with one another, everyone received a “signature card” at check-in with different prompts listed such as, “dislikes chocolate” or “has attended a Words Alive Cookies & Conversation event.” Depending on how many signatures one was able to collect, the more raffle tickets you earned! This signature card was a great way to start conversation with the many volunteers and board members present, and to get to know one another.

Once everyone settled into their seats at around 12:40, the award ceremony honoring our volunteers began. We awarded volunteers in 13 different categories, including: Rookie of the Year, Youth Volunteer of the Year, Leadership Volunteer of the Year, and of course, Volunteer of the Year. Each volunteer who was awarded gave a small but memorable speech all with a common theme, the true reward for them was giving back.

Our Volunteers of the Year were Kim & Doug Harrison. In September, Kim Harrison and her husband, brand specialist Doug Harrison, volunteered to lead the organization in identifying how best to convey its brand – in the simplest terms: what do we do, how do we do it, and what does that look like in the community.

This exercise has resulted in not only a refreshed logo which highlights the action and activity that our engaging programs ignite in students and their families, but language that better describes who we are and what it means for all of us to be touched by Words Alive.

This process has permeated all aspects of the organization – from examinations of our programs, to how we market those programs, how we celebrate and leverage the community partners, to how we look to the future – spreading this impact to every corner of our community and beyond.

An image of Volunteers of the Year, Kim & Doug Harrison, with Leadership Volunteer of the Year, Jeffrey Goldman!

An image of Volunteers of the Year, Kim & Doug Harrison, with Leadership Volunteer of the Year, Jeffrey Goldman!

In her speech, Kim said the following:

“For me it’s really about connection, because I think that’s why we’re here, to connect with each other. It’s so incredibly rewarding and every week when I leave it fills my heart because I get the opportunity to connect with these kids and to see their joy. At the end of the day it’s about a feeling the kids have for you, not what you taught them. So if I can connect reading and language and literature with feelings of joy and awe and curiosity, then I feel like there’s nothing better.”

After leaving the event, these feelings of appreciation and joy for the work we all do together lasted. Words Alive is very lucky to have each of its volunteers, and in turn the volunteers feel very lucky to have found Words Alive. As we gear up to enter our 20th year, we look to the impact Words Alive has had since being founded. Over the past 11 years, we have impacted 21,031 students and 1,546 families. We have given away 154,155 books and we have worked with over 1,255 volunteers. It is clear the mark we’ve all made is substantial. So, to anyone who has donated, volunteered or worked with us to better the communities by changing lives through reading and relationships, we thank you. Here’s to many more years to come with all of you by our side!  

Drop Everything and Read!

By Tait Longhi, Blog Intern

“Children should learn that reading is pleasure, not just something that teachers make you do in school.”- Beverly Cleary

A sketch of Ramona Quibly holding up a book excitedly.

A sketch of Ramona Quibly holding up a book excitedly.

On April 12th, we celebrate “Drop Everything and Read” day (D.E.A.R). A day dedicated and focused on something we hold sacred, the importance of reading. Here at Words Alive, we help students and families see how fun and rewarding reading can be, and fully support the idea of dropping everything you’re doing to pick up a good book!   

Famed author Beverly Cleary, born on April 12th 1916, is a prominent children's book author with renowned titles such as “Beevus and Ramona” a part of the highly popular “Ramona” series. She is a huge advocate for D.E.A.R day, even including a description in her book “Ramona Quibly, Age 8”. She once said, “I don’t think anything will ever replace the pleasure of holding a book and turning its pages”. This perfectly encompasses how we at Words Alive feel and why D.E.A.R day is so important.  

There are several ways you can get involved with D.E.A.R day, first of which is the most obvious, reading a book of your choice! Reading for pleasure regardless of your age is something you can do for you, and you alone. Another way to honor D.E.A.R is starting a journal, or even something as simple as spreading the word.

You can visit http://www.readingrockets.org/calendar/dear#about for more inspiration.  

Read Across America 2019!

By Jennifer Van Pelt

A graphic featuring the text “Read Across America” underneath an image of the hat from Dr. Seuss’s “The Cat in the Hat.”

A graphic featuring the text “Read Across America” underneath an image of the hat from Dr. Seuss’s “The Cat in the Hat.”

Read Across America Day falls annually on March 2nd. The holiday was initially founded by the National Education Association (NEA) as a small way to help advocate for the importance reading among children by making it an exciting celebration. Twenty one years later, 3.3 million NEA members support the event. The holiday, which falls on Dr. Suess’s birthday, aims to motivate children to read more at a young age with the goal of creating lifelong successful readers.

The U.S. Department of Education found that, generally, the more students read for fun on their own time, the higher their reading scores. To help encourage this behavior, the NEA comes out with a digital literacy calendar with suggested books for various reading levels that coincide with holidays, events, or unique topics. Included in this calendar is also a list of suggested activities and resources to make reading a more engaging experience. The National Center of Education also found that children who were read to frequently were more likely to count to 20 or above, write their own names, and read or pretend to read, are all very important skills. Integrating reading into a child’s daily routine is imperative to creating a basis to build upon as they grow older.

As a day that is celebrated in many schools, libraries, and community centers, it’s a great opportunity to incorporate Dr. Suess and his incredibly popular children’s books. Thirty years after his passing, his books are still some of the most recognizable, visually intriguing, and entertaining books to read for children and adults alike. As an author who had fun with words and sounds, he helped children get comfortable with phrases they were unfamiliar with. Lines such as, “Then he hides what you paid him away in his Snuvv, his secret strange hole in his gruvvulous glove” encourage both adults and children to use context clues to figure out the meaning of “snuvv” or “gruvvulous” and how they work within the sentence.

Aside from encouraging children to infer, Dr. Seuss also included a lot of lessons in his books. From teaching children about treating the Earth with respect and the importance of sustainability in The Lorax to classics such as The Cat in the Hat, he was able to incorporate a lesson, big or small, into the book. The Cat in the Hat, perhaps one of his most iconic books, is featured in Read Across America media and the hat is even sold with some purchases to bring the celebration full circle.

Read Across America is a great way to help children get excited about something they may often associate strictly with school. Words Alive firmly believes that by extending the spirit of this celebration into an everyday commitment, it has the power to improve lives for the better. If you would like to learn more about the various ways we make reading fun and accessible to children of all ages, click here.

How the PGA Tour Supports More Than 3,000 Nonprofit Organizations

An image of three attendees of the Women’s Day Event stuffing Kindergarten Readiness Backpacks.

An image of three attendees of the Women’s Day Event stuffing Kindergarten Readiness Backpacks.

This past January marked the 52nd year that the Farmers Insurance Open was played at the Torrey Pines Golf Course in San Diego, California. This annual golf tournament brings in some of the largest golf names and attracts over 100,000 spectators. The PGA tour, its players, and the tournaments support more than 3,000 nonprofit organizations in numerous areas of their communities including youth, military, health, environment, education, and disaster relief. The PGA tour is a unique sporting event in the way that it runs similar to a nonprofit: it relies on volunteer support to run most aspects of the event and it is designed to donate 100% of the proceeds. Up through 2018, the PGA tour has generated $2.65 billion for charity, with that number steadily climbing.

Champions for Youth is the primary charitable program of the Century Club of San Diego, which is the administrative organization behind the Farmers Insurance Open. This year, Words Alive was one of the 10 chosen organizations in San Diego to participate in the Champions for Youth program. This means that not only did we embark on our most successful peer-to-peer fundraising campaign to date (our Board, staff, and volunteers collectively raised over $20,000!), we also had the opportunity to earn bonus funds from a pool of $260,000. In addition, we were able to participate in the Women’s Day Event, Community Day, and we hosted a special Read Aloud session with students from the Doris Miller Elementary School. Participating in these events allowed us to reach out to and interact with members of the community that we haven’t previously been able to.

An image of one of our Read Aloud students from Doris Day Elementary holding up a piece of paper that says “love.”

An image of one of our Read Aloud students from Doris Day Elementary holding up a piece of paper that says “love.”

For the Women’s Day Event, Farmers Insurance employees assisted us in putting together 1,000 Kindergarten Readiness backpacks for the children in our Family Literacy Program. These backpacks included the necessary school supplies for our littlest learners as they enter kindergarten, as well as a brand new book to start building the children’s home library. The event also brought together women in leadership positions across different sectors to discuss the importance of mentorship and their success.

Thanks to our community of supporters and the staff and volunteers who helped us fundraise, Words Alive was able to exceed our goal of raising $60,000. These generous donations will allow us to serve more than 300 students and families this year. Your belief and dedication to building communities who value reading is what enables us to continue giving back to the children and families of San Diego.

If you would like to learn more about Words Alive or keep your eye out for any other upcoming fundraisers, click here.

Learn How Champions for Youth is Making a BIG Impact on Words Alive

Farmers Insurance is partnering with Words Alive to host some special events that will help us inspire more students and families to become lifelong learners. Each year, Farmers Insurance hosts a Women’s Day and Farmers in the Community Session during the week of San Diego’s PGA TOUR event, the Farmers Insurance Open. During these special events, Farmers Insurance employees will be spending a portion of their time stuffing 1,000 Kindergarten Readiness Toolkits for our Family Literacy Program.

After completing seven weeks of fun and engaging programming, our Family Literacy participants are eager to continue learning and using language as a playtime activity. At the end of the program, graduating families receive a backpack with school supplies, alphabet magnets, glue, crayons, scissors, and more. We encourage families to continue spending valuable time together to ignite quality conversation, which is the foundation for learning at this young age.

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Words Alive will also be hosting a Read Aloud Program field trip for 60 students from Doris Miller Elementary School sponsored by Farmers Insurance in partnership with the PGA Wives. The PGA Wives will be using our Words Alive curriculum to host a small group read aloud session with students ranging from K-5th grade. At this time, they will also host a small book giveaway where students will receive a copy of the book they are reading and get to choose three of their own to take home.

We are excited to have the opportunity to partner with Farmers Insurance and The Century Club San Diego to serve more students and families. Words Alive is fundraising until the last day of the Farmers Insurance Open, January 27. We are vying to earn up to $30,000 in bonus funds. Donate today to help us reach our goals.  

Teen Author Talk with Mark Oshiro!

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Mark Oshiro stands onstage at the Neil Morgan Auditorium at the San Diego Central Library. There’s a drop down screen that projects a presentation introducing him to students in the Words Alive Adolescent Book Group program. “I am a queer, Latinx author (of Mexican, Guatemalan, and Salvadoreño descent) and I write books for kids!” As Mark continues to talk to our students about what he was like as a teenager, his career path, and life as an author, he exudes enthusiasm, passion, and sincerity. Although this is undoubtedly a special opportunity for our students, it seems at the same time this is just as special for Mark.

Words Alive's Adolescent Book Group brings books alive for teenagers facing extraordinary circumstances such as homelessness, violence, teen pregnancy and impact by the justice system. Through engaging projects, writing workshops and discussion sessions, Adolescent Book Group participants enhance their critical thinking skills, self-esteem and ability to express themselves. Words Alive's commitment to reading diverse and relevant texts provides an avenue for program participants to connect books to themselves and the world while changing the story of their own lives.

This semester, two of our classrooms, one at Monarch School and one Lindsay Community School, read Mark Oshiro's debut novel, Anger is a Gift. This story follows Moss Jeffries, a sophomore in high school, as he and his classmates find themselves increasingly treated like criminals by their school administration. What this means for them is strict policies and procedures (such as installing metal detectors and random locker searches) and harsh punishment (including intimidation and force from the local police department). As readers, we follow as Moss and his classmates organize and push back against the administration. (Source)

Currently, the Adolescent Book Group solely serves Juvenile Court and Community Schools from the border to North County and this year one of the themes the district wanted to focus on was youth activism. Anger is a Gift perfectly tackles themes such as identifying the change you want in your community, organizing, intersectionality, non-violent demonstration, and power structures.

As students started reading the novel in class and discussing the book with Words Alive volunteers, it was obvious how relevant the story and these themes were to the students. A select few students at Lindsay Community School started reading the novel first and soon it was the talk of the school and the rest of the class shortly joined in. At one point in the novel, the students stage a walkout and our students at Monarch School had a rare opportunity to have an honest discussion with their principal about what he would do if they walked out.

Both of these examples serve to demonstrate the magic that happens when students can both relate to a book and experience an enthusiasm for reading. This is what we mean when we say Words Alive brings books alive for our students.

On occasion, we can take this a step further. Students were able to hear first-hand and in-person from one of the authors of a book they read when we hosted a Teen Author Talk at the San Diego Central Library with Mark Oshiro. In the Adolescent Book Group, discussion often turns to the author’s intent (Why did they say this? What did they mean by this? What do you think their personal experience is?) and it was a special experience for our students to hear directly from the source.

Mark Oshiro and students lean over a copy of his book as he signs the book and answers questions.

Mark Oshiro and students lean over a copy of his book as he signs the book and answers questions.

Mark started off the event by giving a presentation catered for school visits. It quickly became clear that Mark’s journey is similar to that of many of our students, as he talked about his own experiences with homelessness, police brutality, and “feeling like a statistic.” He was open and honest when saying that spite is often what motivated him. He wanted to prove to various adults in his life that he could become successful, despite their lack of belief in him.

Then, Mark sat down for a moderated conversation with our Office & Communication Coordinator, Sara Mortensen. In this conversation we learned that Mark’s real life experiences with police brutality inspired the story that became Anger is a Gift. When asked what other emotions besides anger he felt were important in activist movements, Mark took a moment to think and finally decided on: patience. In a surprise turn at the end of the moderated conversation, Mark talked about how a particular episode of Buffy the Vampire Slayer greatly impacted him and parts of the story that became Anger is a Gift.

In the Q&A portion, students asked questions such as: Do you think this book could have a sequel? Which character do you relate to the most? What would you be doing if you weren’t writing books? After the event, students continued to ask questions as they got their books signed. Words Alive students entered the event excited to meet the author of a book they loved, and left feeling inspired and empowered.

At Words Alive, our mission is to open opportunities for life success by inspiring a commitment to reading. At this Teen Author Talk with Mark Oshiro, students were able to see an example of how reading can change the story of someone’s life. Mark’s journey was not necessarily conventional. He left home at 16, still graduated with a 4.4 GPA and went to college but never received his degree. And yet, through it all he was an avid reader and writer and has found immense success and accomplishment through those passions. Words Alive was proud to provide this experience to our students and we hope to put on more special events like this one in the future.

You can support our efforts to provide more opportunities like this for our students by donating to our Champions for Youth campaign!



What Words Alive Accomplished in 2018!

By Jennifer Van Pelt

In 2018, Words Alive accomplished many goals and held several events that are cause for celebration! With the help of our 261 active volunteers and 39 collaborative partners, we ultimately donated 14,642 books and served 3,725 students and parents in 2018! Join us in taking a look at 2018 in review...

Image of several people toasting with glasses of Boochcraft kombucha. Source:  Boochcraft

Image of several people toasting with glasses of Boochcraft kombucha. Source: Boochcraft

In April 2018, Words Alive partnered up with Boochcraft to celebrate their new special release flavor. As a San Diego based kombucha brewery, they give back to their community by facilitating projects that support education, food, and energy. All of the gross proceeds from the event were donated to Words Alive, resulting in our ability to serve over 75 families in our Family Literacy Program! Partnerships such as this one have allowed us to reach more families and make a bigger impact than either organization could have done individually.

A picture from 2017’s Share Your Love of Reading campaign! The VIP reader had students get up and dance!

A picture from 2017’s Share Your Love of Reading campaign! The VIP reader had students get up and dance!

Our Share Your Love of Reading Campaign was celebrated once again this May and was our most successful yet! We were able to distribute another 2,778 books to our Read Aloud Program participants due to the success of the campaign. Words Alive partnered up with local news stations, council members, and sports team representatives to make appearances in classrooms to read to elementary school students to help encourage their love for reading.

Image of a person with their back turned towards the camera. They are standing in front of one of the sculptures our students made for this year’s Art & Literacy Project.

Image of a person with their back turned towards the camera. They are standing in front of one of the sculptures our students made for this year’s Art & Literacy Project.

In June 2018, our Adolescent Book Group students participated in an exhibition at the San Diego Art Institute titled The Love You Give. Students created pieces of art and poetry focusing on the theme of “duality” and the novel The Hate U Give by Angie Thomas. Local artist Isaias Crow then combined these works of art into communal sculptures. With nearly 100 visitors coming to the exhibition, students were able to showcase their work to their closest friends and family. Students felt proud of themselves for learning and expressing themselves.

We had three Words Alive Westreich Scholarship (WAWS) recipients graduate this year! Zaphire Alonso Duarte, Zaira “Lexi” Martinez, and Domminiece Willis are proud graduates of San Diego City College and Southwestern College who are all continuing their studies at SDSU. When speaking about the program and scholarship, Lexi Martinez said, “My love for reading has been restored since I have been involved with them and I’ve always found a valuable support system within the organization.” We look forward to seeing where their degrees take them and helping more WAWS scholars in the future!

A group picture of The Butterfly Project presenters with Stephen Keiley's 8th grade class at Monarch School and Words Alive ABG volunteers.

A group picture of The Butterfly Project presenters with Stephen Keiley's 8th grade class at Monarch School and Words Alive ABG volunteers.

Words Alive provided the literacy piece of the Holocaust unit for Monarch School’s 8th graders. The students read three books: Night by Elie Wiesel, Maus by Art Spiegelman, and American Ace by Marilyn Nelson — then discussed the books and wrote about the themes with their volunteer team in bi-weekly sessions. As a culminating project, Words Alive partnered with The Butterfly Project, a local Holocaust education initiative. Children of Holocaust survivors led an engaging presentation and invited the Monarch students to each paint a butterfly to represent a child who died in the Holocaust as part of a larger global awareness campaign.

An image of the 2018-2019 Words Alive Westreich Scholars!

An image of the 2018-2019 Words Alive Westreich Scholars!

In August, we recognized our 2018-19 WAWS scholarship recipients. Words Alive awarded $37,500 in scholarships for the upcoming academic year. Nine of the scholars are returning to the program after participating in at least one other year and are receiving a $3,500 scholarship, while three first-time scholars are receiving a $2,000 scholarship from the organization’s Julia & Zoey Shenkman Award. Additionally, each scholarship recipient is matched with a mentor. The mentors meet with their student throughout the school year to help provide guidance and, often times, a shoulder to lean on.

An image of our audience at the 15th Annual Author’s Luncheon & Fundraiser watching Brittany Jackson, former ABG and WAWS participant, give her speech.

An image of our audience at the 15th Annual Author’s Luncheon & Fundraiser watching Brittany Jackson, former ABG and WAWS participant, give her speech.

Our largest event of the year was the 15th Annual Author’s Luncheon & Fundraiser. The marketplace, silent auction, and raffle gave patrons the opportunity to win spectacular prizes while also directly benefiting the three primary programs of Words Alive: Read Aloud Program, Teen Services Program, and our Family Literacy Program. The funds generated at the Author’s Luncheon & Fundraiser make up a considerable portion of what Words Alive needs to continue serving thousands of children and families each year.

Author Mark Oshiro poses with one of our classes from Monarch School after giving a talk about his book, Anger is a Gift.

Author Mark Oshiro poses with one of our classes from Monarch School after giving a talk about his book, Anger is a Gift.

Most recently, we had author Mark Oshiro speak with students from Monarch School and Lindsay Community School. He focused on his life and his book, Anger is a Gift, which tells the story of resilience and loss. The students in attendance read the book over the past semester and were able to discuss the book and the themes surrounding it. Our programs focus on new, diverse, and relevant texts such as this one so that students can see themselves and their experiences represented.

2018 has been one of our best years yet and we are excited to continue inspiring a commitment to reading with the help of you, our community supporters. If you would like to get more information on upcoming events and programs, visit our page here. If you would like to donate or become a fundraiser to help us continue providing these programs, check out our Champions for Youth campaign that is running through January 27, 2019!

Meet the Authors for the 2018 Author Roulette!

By Jennifer Van Pelt

Our Author’s Luncheon & Fundraiser on October 19th is quickly approaching, as are the chances to win awesome prizes at the event! One of the most popular activities we host is our Author Roulette, which allows guests who have donated over a certain amount to spin a wheel for the chance to win an author appearance at your book club. This is an amazing opportunity to not only support our work in the community, but also for the chance to have an intimate one-on-one book club event featuring the author of the book you’ve just read!

How many times do you wish you could directly ask an author questions about their book? Now you have that chance! All of the proceeds from this event go directly towards our programs, allowing us to bring trained volunteers into local classrooms to instill literacy skills and a love of reading upon students, as well as helping to build home libraries for families.

Elizabeth Cobbs is a four-time literary award-winning author. Her most recent book, The Hamilton Affair, tells the true story of Alexander Hamilton and Elizabeth Schuyler and has been named the "Hamilton novel that immediately leaps to the top of the list" by author Joseph J. Ellis. Her first movie, American Umpire, takes a critical look at the role the United States plays in global geopolitics as a sort of 'world police.' She also serves on multiple historical committees, including for the U.S. State Department. To learn more, see Cobbs' website here.

Eric Peterson is a California native whose debut book, Life as a Sandwich, was a finalist in the San Diego Book Awards. His most recent book, The Dining Car, won the 2017 Benjamin Franklin Gold Award for Popular Fiction as well as the 2017 San Diego Book Award for Best Published Contemporary Fiction. The story follows a former college football star's journey as he bartends on a private train car for a popular writer and social critic. You can find more about Peterson’s books here.

Karna Bodman is the author of five novels, the most recent being a political thriller Trust But Verify. The book follows a member of the White House staff and an FBI agent who race to get ahead of a plot that threatens international leaders and stock markets worldwide. Bodman pulls inspiration for her political thrillers from her time serving in the White House, where she was the highest-ranking woman on the White House staff. See more on Bodman’s website here.

Kathy Cooperman performed improv comedy for four years before she attended Yale Law School. After graduating and spending years defending white collar crime, she published her first book Crimes Against a Book Club in 2017. The novel follows two best friends who are strapped for cash and decide to sell face cream to wealthy participants in their local book club -- with the addition of an illegal ingredient that can put their entire business into danger. You can learn more about her books on Goodreads.

Marivi Soliven is a creative writing teacher and the author of 17 books. Her most recent novel, the Mango Bride, tells the story of two Filipino women who immigrated to America, and how their very different lives intertwine, changing them forever. The book won the Grand Prize at the 2011 Carlos Palanca Awards for Literature, widely seen as the Pulitzer Prize equivalent of the Philippines. The response to this novel has inspired her to bring more awareness and advocacy towards immigrant survivors of domestic violence. For more info, see Soliven's website here.

Mike Sager is an award-winning reporter and author of ten books. The second edition of his book, Revenge of the Donut Boys, is a collection of seventeen true stories that touch on the varying aspects of American life, focusing on the values, virtues, obsessions, and hypocrisies of society. Sager has served as a staff writer on the Washington Post, a contributing editor to the Rolling Stone, and a writer at large for Esquire. Currently, he is the editor and publisher of The Sager Group LLC. See Sager's website here.

Tammy Greenwood’s novels have sold over 250,000 copies. Her most recent 2018 novel, Rust and Stardust, follows the story of an 11 year-old girl and her captor as they travel from New Jersey to California. The novel is based on the experiences of a real-life kidnapping victim from the 1940’s. Greenwood has won three San Diego Book Awards and is a creative writing teacher. If you’d like to learn more about her novels, you can visit her website here.

Jennifer Coburn is a USA Today bestselling author of six novels and contributor to five literary anthologies. Over the past two decades, Coburn has received numerous awards from the Press Club and Society for Professional Journalists for articles that appeared in the Washington Post, Mothering, Big Apple Baby, The Miami Herald, The San Diego Union-Tribune and dozens of national and regional publications. She has also written for Salon.com, Creators News Syndicate and The Huffington Post.

Lannette Cornell Bloom is a registered nurse, healer, and author. She is passionate about bringing simple joys to others. As an RN and health practitioner of more than thirty years, she has seen firsthand the need to care for others both emotionally and physically. She brings into focus the fragility of life and the importance of enjoying the simple joys that slip through our fingers if we’re not paying attention—because life may be hard, but joy is simple.

Michelle Gable, in her New York Times bestselling debut, A Paris Apartment, fictionalized the true story of a French courtesan and the discovery of her sealed-for-seventy-years Parisian apartment sparking wonder in readers the world over. Gable’s second novel, I’LL SEE YOU IN PARIS, which she wrote by hand in between her daughters’ softball games and a day job as VP of Investor Relations for Ellie Mae, finds her in the City of Light yet again. Michelle graduated from The College of William & Mary. After a twenty-year career in finance, she now writes full time. Michelle lives in Cardiff-by-the-Sea, California, with her husband, two daughters, and one lazy cat.

Susan Carol McCarthy is the award-winning author of three novels inspired by true events in Florida history -- LAY THAT TRUMPET IN OUR HANDS, TRUE FIRES, and A PLACE WE KNEW WELL -- as well as the non-fiction BOOMERS 101: THE DEFINITIVE COLLECTION. Her work has been widely selected by libraries and universities for their One Book, One Community and Freshman Year Read programs, and adopted by schools in 29 states and 6 countries. “McCarthy blends fact, memory, imagination, and truth with admirable grace.” ~ The Washington Post. A native Floridian, she lives and writes in Carlsbad, California.


If you’re interested in learning more about our Author’s Luncheon & Fundraiser and getting the chance to participate in the Author Roulette game in addition to other activities, visit our site here.