EAST ORANGE, N.J. – A new mentoring program is promoting literacy by creating book clubs for youth sports teams starting on August 21, at the Watsessing Park in East Orange.

Matt Stevens, former East Orange Recreation Director, who has extensive experience working with at-risk youth, has started Books4Boys.org. The program provides books to youth sports teams and trains coaches and fathers to facilitate book clubs at practice and home. The program will begin at the East Orange Jaguar Pop Warner Football Program’s Parent Meeting at Watsessing Park (Corner of Dodd Street and Glenwood Avenue in East Orange) from 7 p.m. -7:30 p.m.

“We started Books4Boys.org to address the troubling poor reading scores of urban male students throughout the nation,” states Matt Stevens. Research has indicated that students learn to read by 3rd grade and read to learn by 4th grade. Children who do not read at grade level by 4th grade are likely to end up poor, in prison or unemployed. The Reading Level Index (The percentage of 4th graders who read at grade level) in most urban centers in the United States ranges between 13% to 50%. This means that between 50% and 87% of the 4th graders in schools in these cities do not read at grade level. The research suggests that these students will struggle in life. 

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Books4Boys.org works with youth sports teams to meet the boys in an environment that is supervised by respected mentors (coaches) and have significant parent participation. The team is provided reading material and Stevens conducts training for adults to effectively run the book  clubs at practice and home. The books being used are Khalil’ s Way (David Miller) and Letters to a Young Brother (Hill Harper).

Khalil’s Way is a book that highlights the journey of Khalil Joseph, an 11 year old boy growing up in a tough New Orleans community after Hurricane Katrina. Khalil's journey shows how a young boy, who is gifted in math and chess but struggles with being diagnosed ADHD, asthma, numerous food allergies and growing up with a single mother, and how he struggles to deal with being bullied every day in school.

Letters to a Young Brother offers inspirational advice in a down-to-earth style, this unique compilation of letters provides wisdom, guidance, and heartfelt insight to help the reader chart their own path to success. Bombarded with messages from music and the media, Harper set out to dispel the stereotypical image of success that young people receive today and instead emphasizes alternative views of what it truly means to be a successful male.

David Miller will join the Parent Meeting on August 21 through Skype for a Virtual Meet The Author session. The book club begins on September 2 as the boys return to school and the season starts.

Coach Bobby Brown, a former Green Bey Packer Wide Receiver and current Jaguar Youth Football Coach, stated “as a former All American Scholar Athlete and Cum Laude graduate from Notre Dame University, I stress academics as a major priority for our players. I am excited about participating in the Books4Boys.org mentor effort to help prepare our players for life on and off the field.” One hundred players from the team will participate in the program.

The program is also scheduled to start in the neighboring town of Orange New Jersey in the Fall as a part of the City of Orange Department of Recreation’s Fall Basketball league. Director Keith Pressey states “We are looking forward to including the Books4Boys.org mentor program into our youth sports program to further the education of our players and increase parent participation.”

The program is funded through grants and donations made to the Dale Caldwell Foundation, a 501c3 non profit organization. For more information, to bring a Books4Boys.org mentor program to a school/ recreation center, or to make a donation please contact us at 973.820.8999