What is Reading Against the Odds?

Reading Against the Odds is a reading discussion group geared toward students who are currently students in the Adult Literacy (AL) program at Literacy Chicago. The goal of group is to enhance literacy, critical thinking skills, self-awareness and interpersonal connections through group-based discussion of thematically arranged novels by diverse authors, and relevant cultural activities in the larger community.

The notion of “Reading Against the Odds” is connected to the fact that while in the group, students are not only challenging conventional understandings about what they can achieve as adult literacy learners, but also that they are engaging with writers, texts or even ideas that are often culturally marginalized.

The group meets twice a week for two hours. Students are encouraged to both read aloud and read along with audiotaped versions of each book. We have also had outside guests, including poet, writer, and social worker Useni Eugene Perkins; noted author Patrick Somerville and former Bulls star, Bob Love, read and/or lead discussions with students in the group. Writing assignments along with videos/movies and art activities also help learners understand both the content and the larger issues raised in the readings. Evaluations of the group have found increases in students reading scores, their reading confidence and their enjoyment of reading.

Reading Against the Odds has been meeting since 2007 and its inaugural year was funded by an American Association of University Women Community Action Grant. It is currently supported through funds provided by the Illinois Secretary of State.