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'Open Book' program: Sound judgment key to stopping violence

Friday, April 26, 2013

Getting kids to enjoy reading is one thing -- but helping them develop critical thinking skills could be life-saving.

The Institute for Positive Living's Open Book program believes good decision-making is the key to ending the violence on Chicago's streets.

Some students at Charles Henderson Elementary School in Englewood voluntarily tackle a range of novels throughout the school year. This session, they're working poetry, interpreting the work and acting it out.

The program's founder Reverend Marrice Coverson believes that kind of engagement helps students apply lessons to their own lives and learn the steps to making positive decisions.

"The reason that many of our kids are in jail, incarcerated or dead is because good decision making was not done. People did not look and make good decisions. People did not reason well," Rev. Coverson said.

Students say the chosen literature is easily relatable.

"We talk about social skills and how people pick with you and you can let go the feeling of it," Romaell Stokes, eighth grader, said.

It also lends itself to discussion of real-world issues, including violence.

"Temper gets you nowhere, so you have to calm down and think about it because some people when they experience violence it's because they get hot-headed real quick," Dayjahnae Weston, eighth grade, said.

"If some of those young men who picked up a gun would've thought about, 'What would be the consequences of picking up this gun? What would happen in my life? I would spend it in prison or I would take another life.' They would've made a different decision I would think," Rev. Coverson said.

Henderson Principal Marvis Jackson-Ivy said in addition to critical thinking, the program also greatly impacts the students reading and writing skills. openbookprogram.org

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