April – RAO had a special guest, Steve Leveen. In 1987 Steve Leveen and his wife Lori Granger formed Levenger, a company that sells beautiful items for readers, writers, and thinkers. Levenger has a Partnering for Good program that supports reading all over the world. After meeting the Leveens at the Innovations in Reading Luncheon in November, and subsequently learning that The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks is one of Steve’s favorite books, we dared to invite him to be a Guest Reader. He graciously agreed, and joined us on April 17th. When we asked Steve to read from Chapter 13 “The HeLa Factory” we learned that when he was a child, he actually had a chance to meet Jonas Salk. Though Steve was too young to understand Dr. Salk’s work, it gave the group a chance to think about having personal connections with people who later become historic figures. To learn more about Levenger, go to www.levenger.com.
Many days when RAO students come to
class we are greeted by Jesse Smith, who works in security for the building. After learning that Jesse has been reading
and saving newspaper articles about Henrietta Lacks for a few years, we enjoyed
having Jesse read to us from the book. He
also brought a copy of an article that talked about how the Henrietta Lacks
Foundation was created, and how it has helped Henrietta Lacks children and grandchildren. Reading and talking about this article relieved some of our distress about the fate of Henrietta Lacks' family. We also talked about putting money to use for specific causes, such as education and health.
May – On Thursday, May 9, RAO students participated in a special “Big Read” program at Columbia College. The event involved Literacy Volunteers of Illinois (LVI), Literacy Chicago, and Columbia College. After introductory remarks, acquainting us with the time period, geography, and people in Julia Alvarez’s book “In the Time of Butterflies”, we settled down with popcorn, soft drinks and coffee to view the film of the same name. Afterward, there was discussion and picture-taking, and all participants were given a copy of the book to take home!
The following evening, on May 10th, many RAO students joined with ESL students, special guests, and friends of Literacy Chicago, for the annual fundraiser, “The Well Read Affair”- held on one of the top floors of the Willis Tower. Check out Literacy Chicago’s website (www.literacychicago.org) and Facebook page to enjoy photos and more details!