Summer jobs help Pittsburgh teens promote power of reading

'Our kids want to break stereotypes and show the community that they can be forces for good.'


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When Josh Arrington got to the part about the gods chaining Prometheus to a rock to punish him for giving fire to humans, one little boy sitting on the lawn in front of him perked up. He asked why the gods chained Prometheus.

"Because humans could use fire to challenge the gods, and that wouldn't be cool," said Josh, 15, whose summer job has been to read to children as one of 30 Reading Warriors hired by the Neighborhood Learning Alliance.

"Why did he shake the Earth?" the child asked.

"He was trying to free himself."

On Tuesday morning, 80 young children and 30 teen Reading Warriors held a reading demonstration with mentors and alliance leaders in front of the East Liberty Presbyterian Church. People honked as children waved signs that read "Reading is Power" and "Honk if you love books."

According to Katy Frey, a co-director of the alliance, the event was intended "to promote literacy to the community at large and drive home the point that reading can be done anywhere at any time."

The public was invited to drop by and read their own books while clusters of children formed around their Reading Warriors.

The alliance began in 2003 as Wireless Neighborhoods. It was established by a group of organizations including the Bloomfield Garfield Corp., Community House Church and the Hill House Association. The Reading Warriors program is a new initiative. Its teen readers work in summer camps in Garfield, the Hill District, Homewood , Larimer and Lincoln-Lemington.

Amy Baumgardner, a co-director of the alliance, said the warriors were chosen after interviews that were coordinated with public schools.

"Our kids want to break stereotypes and show the community that they can be forces for good," she said.

"It has been an awesome experience and will lead to better things," said Adrinnie Moore of Penn Hills. Her 16-year-old daughter, Megan Carpenter, is a Reading Warrior who said she has always liked to read, especially dramas and biographies.

"The job is better than I thought it would be," Megan said. "I got a chance to help little kids read, and they love it."

Josh of Mount Oliver admits he wasn't a reader as a young boy. "Since I got this job, I have been reading," he said. "I like sports, drama and stuff that's suspenseful."

"This is a good first job," he said. "I actually like it."

education - neigh_city

Diana Nelson Jones: djones@post-gazette.com or 412-263-1626. Read her blog City Walkabout at www.post-gazette.com/citywalk.


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