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Newton's Non-Profit Organization Wondermore Inspires Creativity in Young Readers

By Paul Rowe

Based out of Newton, Massachusetts, Wondermore is a non-profit whose core mission is to inspire a lifetime love of reading in underserved Boston K-8 public schools. Wondermore enhances and illuminates curriculum by bringing acclaimed authors and illustrators into the reading classroom.

These author and illustrator visits cultivate curiosity and creativity among younger readers by providing them with the special opportunity to closely engage with and learn from the creators of the books they are reading in class each day.

"Wondermore author visits provide innovative academic enrichment for students who have very few such opportunities, due to lack of resources; we only go into schools where 75% or more of the student body live in poverty," says Executive Director Rebecca Coll. "Authors-in-Schools visits organized by Wondermore are specifically designed to capture the interest of young students to help ensure they fall in love with reading and therefore have a better chance at graduating and going on to college."

In addition to the "Authors-in-Schools" program, Wondermore offers a Writer-in-Residence program. This program brings authors into classrooms for multiple sessions built around writing projects students are working on with their teachers. This author presence provides young writers the opportunity to have a "real author" discuss their work.

At Wondermore, Coll says that students of reading and writing are amazed to find successful authors and illustrators who "look and talk like they do." The discovery that these writers and illustrators are real people, just like them, helps young readers develop the confidence they need to achieve tasks in front of them on the page, and outside in the "real world."

Beyond author and illustrator school visits, Wondermore organizes its own annual conference called "What's New in Children's Books," where academics teach students and allow them to learn and discuss what's currently happening in the world of promising children's literature.

"We generally have four speakers, or sometimes two speakers and a panel, as well as Terri Schmitz, the owner of Children's Book Shop in Brookline, and Christian Porter, librarian at the Park School in Brookline, talking about their favorite new book picks for fall," says Coll.

Many prominent authors and illustrators have visited schools with Wondermore in the last few years, including Zetta Elliot, the African American feminist writer of plays, essays, novels, and stories for children, the cartoonist, children's book author and illustrator, and musician Jeff Czekaj, and Garth Hinds, creator of critically-acclaimed graphic novels based on literary classics, including Beowulf, King Lear, The Merchant of Venice, The Odyssey, Romeo and Juliet, and Macbeth.

As currently most children who are not reading proficiently in third grade do not go on to graduate high school on time, students who have lived in poverty are three times more likely to drop out or fail to graduate on time than their more affluent peers, and if students read poorly the rate is six times greater than for proficient readers, the services Wondermore provides are more important now than ever before.

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About The Author

Paul Rowe is a graduate instructor of writing and master's student of Literature at...

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