A Notre Dame-based program that uses literature to bring hope to South Bend juvenile offenders will be one of the participants in a unique nationwide initiative called “World Book Night” on Tuesday, April 23.
The program reaching out through South Bend’s Juvenile Justice Center is called “Reading for Life” and is the brainchild of Dr. Alesha Seroczynski, who developed it with support from the Institute for Educational Initiatives. She is a psychologist affiliated with the University’s Center for Children and Families.
Through her efforts, “Reading for Life” received approval to be one of the “giver” organizations making good use of 500,000 free books being distributed by the non-profit World Book Night U.S. This is the second year that the organization has sought applications and then designated worthy recipients of books, all for the cause of “spreading the love of reading, person to person.”
Groups like “Reading for Life” have been picking up free copies of fiction books that were selected for the 2013 World Book Night campaign. Booksellers around the country, including the Barnes & Noble store in Mishawaka’s University Park Mall and Better World Books in Mishawaka, serve as intermediaries where the books can be picked up by designated recipients.
“Reading for Life” requested, and was authorized to receive, free copies of Looking for Alaska by noted author John Green. According to Seroczynski, “Our ability to participate in World Book Night will enable us to give a free copy to every youth in detention at the St. Joseph County Juvenile Justice Center on April 23. We love John Green and we are excited to share his stories with these young people.”
“Reading for Life” also operates a diversion program with less serious juvenile offenders. For both groups, the goal is to engage young people in structured discussions about notable works of fiction in which the pursuit of virtue clearly transforms people’s lives for the better.
The program, now in its fifth year, is a controlled experiment to confirm that strong, pro-virtue messages in literature can help reduce recidivism and bring hope for juvenile offenders.
Peter Morgan, J.D., executive director of St. Joseph County’s Thomas N. Frederick Juvenile Justice Center in South Bend, believes that, “Reading for Life has been more successful in diverting young people from the juvenile justice system than traditional programs such as community service. The program’s success makes it very cost-effective.”
Contact: Dr. Alesha Seroczynski at 631-0952.