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Local Teen Inspiring Peers to Read for Fun

— Did you know that less than 1/3 of 13-year-olds read for pleasure?

Last February, a local 13-year-old named Emma Halpern decided to do something about this. She combined her passion for reading and her Mitzvah Project (a community service project completed by many Jewish youth at their thirteenth birthday as a display of maturity) and formed a book club for girls at Nativity Prep Academy.

Emma Halpern's book club at Nativity Prep Academy. From left to right: Jessica, Corrinne, Karen, Emma Halpern (the facilitator), Daviana, Angelica, Christina

Above: Emma Halpern's book club at Nativity Prep Academy. From left to right: Jessica, Corrinne, Karen, Emma Halpern (the facilitator), Daviana, Angelica, Christina

“I love to read and I think it is important for girls, even if they don’t own a lot of books, to learn to love to read also. I chose the girls from Nativity Prep because they come from families with limited income,” Emma stated. (To attend the school, they must be at an income level to receive free lunch and have parents with only a high school education or less.)

Her view is supported by the school’s website which states that “over 90 percent of families with limited income cite lack of education as their chief cause of poverty, accurately stated since they are 56 times more likely to be educationally neglected.” For this reason, Emma chose Nativity Prep to begin her book club to inspire other young girls her age to enjoy reading.

According to Emma, “the girls are having a great time talking about the books… In fact, the teacher always has to come in the room and beg us to stop!” The members have started to refine their tastes in books too, and no longer choose “beach reads,” as Emma’s mother calls them, but “meaty books worthy of good, quality discussions.” Through donations, Emma purchases enough paperback copies of each selection for the group members to read.

One Nativity Prep Academy teacher observes that “not only are the girls enjoying the books they are reading, but they are learning to look for deeper meaning in literature. They are also learning to compromise, especially when they do not always agree on the books they are reading or even the thoughts they may have about the books.” Emma Halpern’s book club is invaluable to the developing minds and the encouragement of literacy to these young girls. A member of the book club describes it as “…an interesting new experience. I have a lot of fun and find it thrilling when we discuss the books.”

Emma’s passion for reading and discussing literature is already inspiring the creation of other student-led book clubs. Two of the girls from her club have already started another book club with students in the grade below them. Emma hopes this is just the beginning.

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