Nosakhere Griffin-EL, founder of the Young Dreamers Book Club, is an advocate of literacy, especially among urban youth. His organization challenges young people to strive for greatness while learning, and brings families together for fellowship over books.
According to Griffin-EL, teaching young people to read gives them a key to access their dreams.
“Reading is just not a tool is just not a tool help develop your dream but reading is a tool to make the world a better place,” Griffin-EL said.
A Philadelphia native, Griffin-EL attended the University of Pittsburgh, started a family and stayed in the area. He said the catalyst for the club stems from a personal experience with his wife and two sons in 2017.
“My oldest son had a speech delay,” he said. “My wife and I were extremely dissatisfied with the support that the public school system in Pittsburgh was offering him. So one summer I told my wife, I said, ‘I have an idea. I’m going to keep the boys home for the entire summer and I'm just going to read to them.’”
From that, he noticed a greater issue of low literacy rates that needed to be addressed and said both children and parents must work together to overcome that disparity.
“Sixty-four percent of African-American children don’t read at grade level from 3rd to 5th grade, so this Young Dreamers Book Club was born out of the necessity to say we need to make reading an integral part of our community fabric,” Griffin-EL said. “That means that kids need to see themselves as readers.”
The club partners with the Carnegie Library of Pittsburgh and programs are set up in large gatherings around the city and activities are assigned to be completed at home.
“It’s just a great connection with our mission here at the library and supporting children and families,” said Mary Beth Parks, children services coordinator with the Carnegie Library of Pittsburgh.
Parks said the addition of the Young Dreamers Book Club has improved programming across the board and enhanced the library’s mission.
“He's contributed content; book lists,” Parks said. “We’re just very happy to work with him and have him support the work on different projects such as Black History Month, Martin Luther King Day, bilingual story-times. He's bringing so many elements and so many components into the library that support the work that we do.”
Griffin-EL, who spent three years as a professor in South Africa before returning to Pittsburgh, said literacy is the gateway to dreams and overall participation in the democratic process; that it’s the gateway to a wealth of knowledge that no one can eradicate.
"Literacy provides us with the opportunity to develop a personal agency to satisfy our curiosity,” Griffin-EL said. “While at the same time, reading provides us with the ability to speak in an in-depth manner about things that are important while talking about the essence that these things represent.”