Events

Thank You to Our 2019 Author's Luncheon & Fundraiser Sponsors!

By Omar Jawdat, Blog Intern

Celebrating its 16th year, the Author’s Luncheon & Fundraiser is Words Alive’s signature event, which features renowned authors such as Salman Rushdie, Jodi Picoult, and Isabelle Allende! This unique event introduces patrons to to their most beloved authors, while witnessing an intimate conversation about the author’s life, writing, and featured novel, all while supporting the learning development of children, teens, and families in our community. Integrating both style and intellect, the Author’s Luncheon also offers something for everyone in our marketplace, silent auction, and opportunity drawing for a chance to win prizes! Each fall, over 600 patrons attend with the aim of supporting Words Alive.

The 16th Annual Author’s Luncheon & Fundraiser will feature novelist, playwright, screenwriter, and literary historian, Emma Donoghue! The event will take place on Tuesday, September 10 (10:00am - 2:00pm)  at the Marriott Marquis San Diego Marina. 

Sponsorship Opportunities  

This event would not be possible without our incredible sponsors. These organizations and individuals have gone above and beyond in their support of Words Alive and our mission. All sponsors receive recognition on our website, blog, e-newsletters, social media, and annual reports. Frequency and placement is based upon level of sponsorship. Sponsors and their guests are also invited to a special post-event VIP reception and toast!

 For more details and questions, visit this website or contact Words Alive.

We Would Like to Thank All of Our Following Sponsors for Being Part of This Special Event!

Impact Sponsors

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  • Gurtin Municipal Bond Management

    • Becoming a PIMCO company in January 2019, Gurtin Municipal Bond Management is an investment management firm focused on maximizing tax-free income. Through their focused expertise in investment-grade bonds, innovative research, technology, and investment strategies, Gurtin Municipal Bond Management is committed to providing tailored municipal investment experiences, including seeking to maximize risk-adjusted returns. In the midst of a financial crisis, Bill Gurtin founded Gurtin Municipal Bond Management in the hopes of building the premier tax-exempt municipal bond management firm in the industry and making a commitment to the loyal clients that have made it possible.    

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  • Carleton Management, Inc. 

    • Carleton Management, Inc. is a real estate investment company with strong roots in San Diego, California. Carleton Management’s philosophy is to invest for the long-term, hold diversified properties in its portfolio, rarely sell its investments, and periodically enter into strategic development relationships. Carleton Management, Inc.’s San Diego roots date back to the 1920s, when Isaac Ratner, a cap manufacturer, moved his wife and family of six children from New York City. The company had originally started as a clothing business, particularly for naval uniforms and officers’ caps during World War II. Soon after, the company became the largest manufacturing company of clothing in the 1960’s and 1970s. Since the 1980s, working his way up, Abe Ratner’s son-in-law, Stanely Foster evolved the business into what it has become today, a real estate investment company.

Ballroom Wine Sponsor

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  • Partners in Thought

    • Partners in Thought, “A Science-based Coaching for High Achievers”, provides tools to help facilitate deeper thinking, developing different effective strategies, self-discovery, and change to achieve goals, growth, and celebrate accomplishments. They have successfully been doing so for individuals and organizations extending to five continents! Partners in Thought’s nonprofit and public agency services help nonprofit and governmental boards and executives develop the most effective and sustainable organizations and leaders. We thank you for your sponsorship!

Champagne Reception Sponsor

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  • Moss Adams

    • Since 1913, when the firm first opened, Moss Adams has been dedicated and responsible for growth and sustainability amongst their clients, people, and neighborhoods. The firm expanded its services to Portland in 1922. The firm then opened in Northern and Southern California in the 1960’s and 70’s, offering clients the value-added services that compliment their core assurance and tax solutions. Today, working with more than 3,200 professionals across more than 25 locations in the West and beyond, Moss Adams has worked with the most innovative companies and leaders, helping them conquer challenges as they plan for what’s next. Moss Adams was recognized among the 100 Best Companies for the programs, benefits, and career support that mothers and other women at the firm receives.

Print Sponsor

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  • Geppetto’s 

    • We would like to thank Geppeto’s Toys for their sponsorship, and all the joy they have brought to children through their magical world of classic toys, which inspire creativity and fun play time for the entire family! For over 40 years, Gepetto’s has been a San Diego Tradition, locally owned and operated by the Miller family. Originally located in the Old Town area of San Diego, Gepetto’s stores have expanded significantly from Carlsbad to Downtown, and many other neighborhoods in between. Gepetto’s offers exceptional service, with complimentary gift wrapping everyday and special product orders.

Media Sponsor

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  • Voice of San Diego

    • Founded in 2005 by Union Tribune columnist Neil Morgan and entrepreneur Buzz Wooley, the Voice of San Diego is a nonprofit news organization that reaches out to the region of San Diego, exposing the true facts that people might not want out there. They are committed to revealing why things are the way they are. The Voice of San Diego takes the time to explain complex local public policy issues in the efforts that the people of San Diego become more engaged and make good decisions.

PR Sponsor

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  • Berkman Strategic Communications

    • Berkman Strategic Communications are communication strategists at the highest level. As a strategic communications and public relations firm, they have become mentors and guides who provide strong insights and counsel to extraordinary clients to exceed their goals and objectives. Berkman also delivers high value, result driven marketing programs to clients of various industries and across a variety of disciplines. They continue to engage in positive impacts through the power of all communication channels (digital and traditional), while elevating their clients from the competition.

Community Supporter

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  • Filice Insurance

    • As a full service consulting firm for more than 25 years, Filice Insurance has been providing insurance solutions for over 2,000 companies throughout California. Since their inception in 1989, Filice has grown to become one of the largest independent employee benefits and insurance consulting firms in California. Their credit to this growth is based upon their focus on service and their investment in the tools and technology necessary to support a client base.

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  • Belly Up

    • Thank you, Belly Up, for your community support! Belly Up provides the best in new, up-and-coming artists, as well as established legends in genres ranging from alternative rock, indie rock, rock, reggae, and hip-hop to blues, folk, jazz, Latin & more! 

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  • Pacific Coast Grill

    • We would like to thank Pacific Coast Grill for their support! Pacific Coast Grill’s oceanfront venues provide a variety of unique “Pacific Coast” cuisines, an oyster bar, select sushi rolls, black mussels, baked oysters, and a surfeit of more seafood choices! Since 1995, PCG has used fresh, local, free range ingredients to produce delicious food at friendly prices.

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  • Christopher Weil & Co, Inc.

    • Christopher Weil & Co, Inc. provides exceptional investment management, deploying various aspects of management expertise in different fields of business. The Weil Company was formed in 1989 by Chris Weil, in the aims to advise and manage wealth for others. Since the 1970s, they have sponsored and managed over seventy private equity funds which are formed to invest in residential and commercial real estate, as well as small businesses. Their services include comprehensive financial reviews, estate and insurance planning, installation of and advice to retirement plans, and consultation on philanthropy and philanthropic vehicles. The Christopher Weil & Co, Inc. also works to help clients put a plan in place to create a match between resources and goals.

It’s Not Too Late to Become a Sponsor! 


Details on how to become a sponsor, including sponsorship opportunities, package details, tables, and tickets can be found here.

Introducing Emma Donoghue: Featured Author of the 16th Annual Author’s Luncheon & Fundraiser!

An image of Emma Donoghue.

An image of Emma Donoghue.

We recently announced that our 16th Annual Author’s Luncheon & Fundraiser will feature novelist, playwright, screenwriter, and literary historian, Emma Donoghue! The event will take place on Tuesday, September 10 at the Marriott Marquis San Diego Marina. 

Emma Donoghue is renowned and celebrated for several of her amazing novels such as Room (2010), Frog Music (2014), The Wonder (2016), The Sealed Letter (2008, 2009, 2011), Landing (2007), Life Mask (2004), and many others. 

A signed copy of her latest published novel, Akin (2019), will be available at the Author’s Luncheon! 

Akin, by Emma Donoghue

An image of Emma’s new book, Akin. Image credit: @bibliotaph_bean on Instagram

An image of Emma’s new book, Akin. Image credit: @bibliotaph_bean on Instagram

Little, Brown, and Company says that Emma Donoghue’s upcoming novel, Akin, is a “funny, heart-wrenching tale of an old man and a boy, born two generations apart, who unpick their painful story and start to write a new one together.” 

“Noah Selvaggio is a retired chemistry professor and widower living on the Upper West Side, but born in the South of France. He is days away from his first visit back to Nice since he was a child, bringing with him a handful of puzzling photos he’s discovered from his mother’s wartime years. But he receives a call from social services: Noah is the closest available relative of an eleven-year-old great-nephew he’s never met, who urgently needs someone to look after him. Out of a feeling of obligation, Noah agrees to take Michael along on his trip.

Much has changed in this famously charming seaside mecca, still haunted by memories of the Nazi occupation. The unlikely duo, suffering from jet lag and culture shock, bicker about everything from steak frites to screen time. But Noah gradually comes to appreciate the boy’s truculent wit, and Michael’s ease with tech and sharp eye help Noah unearth troubling details about their family’s past. Both come to grasp the risks people in all eras have run for their loved ones, and find they are more akin than they knew.” - Little Brown and Company 

Image of Emma, along with the cast of Room.

Image of Emma, along with the cast of Room.

Who is Emma Donoghue?

Emma Donoghue was born in Dublin, Ireland in October 1969; the youngest of eight children. In Dublin, Donoghue attended Catholic convent schools. She earned a first-class honours BA in English and French from University College Dublin in 1990. After moving to England, In 1997, Emma received her PhD from the University of Cambridge. Through her fiction, she wrote and analyzed the concept of friendship between men and women in 18th century English fiction.       

Emma Donoghue’s fiction has also been translated into over forty languages. She began her career with her first published book, Passions Between Woman: British Lesbian Culture 1668-1801 in 1993. Since then, several of her fiction-genre novels consist of mid-16th to late 17th century European society.

As a mother of two, currently living in London, Ontario, Emma Donoghue continues earning her living as a writer.  

Screenplay, Movie & Theatre Adaptations

Winner of the Hughes & Hughes Irish Novel of the year, the Salon Book Award for Fiction and many other awards, the prestigious and distinct contemporary novel, Room, was also written as a screenplay by Emma Donoghue, and adapted onto the big screen! It won the “Best Actress Academy Award and Golden Globe Best Dramatic Actress (for Brie Larson), the Canadian Screen Award for Best Film, the Irish Film and Television Academy Award for Best Film.” 

According to Emma Donoghue, the novel and film adaptation was inspired by having children. The idea of a “locked room” is a metaphor for the “claustrophobic, tender bond of parenthood.” The story is centered around a five-year-old boy named Jack who lives in a single room with his mother. His mother deprives Jack from the outside world, and keeps him inside a room, isolated from the real world until the age of five, when Jack begins to ask questions. 

The New Yorker says it is “astounding, terrifying, and a testament to Donoghue’s imagination that she is able to fashion radiance from such horror.” In addition, The New York Times claims that Room is “rich in psychological, sociological and political meaning — Donoghue reveals how joy and terror often dwell side by side.”  

What is the Author’s Luncheon & Fundraiser?

The Author’s Luncheon & Fundraiser is an annual fundraising event that features renowned authors such as Mary Kubica, Salman Rushdie, and Isabelle Alende. It allows attendees the chance to learn more about the author’s work of creative writing, as well as learn about the lives of authors outside of their work. This event is also an opportunity to support the work of Words Alive. Each year, the fundraiser raises over $200,000 in the aim of supporting the thousands of students and families we serve each year.

Integrating both style and intellect, the Author’s Luncheon also offers something for everyone in our marketplace, silent auction, and opportunity drawing for a chance to win prizes! Each fall, over 600 patrons attend with the aim of supporting Words Alive.

How Can I Participate in this Event?

There are multiple ways to participate in this event! This includes sponsoring the event, sponsoring a table, or donating to our silent auction. Enjoy premier seating by becoming a table sponsor, which includes seating for 10 to 12 guests! More information on the Author’s Luncheon, as well as package details on sponsorship opportunities, details about tickets, tables, and contact information can be found on our website: http://www.wordsalive.org/authorsluncheon/ 

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 Exhibit, 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, which 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 loves of reading and creating. A project like this allows her to step outside her usual medium and approach the project with the experience of the students 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, and 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 knew 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, which each word forming a boundary of limitations.

Sue said that her own perceptions were challenged in an interaction with one particular student at the 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 perceived this act as her vision being interrupted. She told Sue, “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. To see the final pieces of artwork in person, join us from 6 to 8 p.m. on Wednesday, June 5th, at the San Diego Art Institute, 1439 El Prado in San Diego. 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!