The following post is an article that was featured on the WorkerAnts website. WorkerAnts is a website “DEDICATED TO CONNECTING CHARITIES, VOLUNTEERS & ACTIVISTS!” WorkerAnts works with many non-profits, so we were honored when we were selected to be highlighted in their newsletter.
There are numerous studies that show that people who read for enjoyment have higher literacy skills, are less likely to drop out of school, will get better jobs and have greater opportunities in life. Likewise, exposure to different climates, cultures and people groups through travel broadens a person’s point of reference to the world and helps fight bigotry and intolerance. Books&Wanderlust was founded by Kimberly James, an education professional with over fifteen years of teaching experience and who is currently an English Professor at Santa Monica College. Kim has traveled to over fifty countries on all seven continents and is writing a memoir of her journeys and how they were shaped by the intersection of her wanderlust and the breast cancer that runs in her family.
Kimberly is a wonderful example for us at WorkerAnts.com of how one person can use their life’s passions to change the world. She has taken her experiences and discovered a way to use them to give back to others by founding a non-profit dedicated to helping minorities and the underprivileged gain access to the world through books and travel. We invite you to be as inspired by her as we are through reading her story and learning more about her organization and how we can join together to help others experience the wonders of this world.
By Kimberly James Ed.D. – the Green Goddess
Have you ever read a book that has made your heart stop, made you sob until you gasp, made you laugh out loud, or even made you want to change the world? A book can cause an emotional response, as does traveling. Recall the times you laughed with a stranger, marveled at a breathtaking site, or made a new friend even though you didn’t speak the same language. If you have had these experiences, you know that books and travel have had a positive impact on your life. Books&Wanderlust believes that everyone should be afforded these same opportunities.
I recently founded Books&Wanderlust because books and travel are my passions, and I truly believe that both can be transformative. The mission of Books&Wanderlust is to enrich the lives of underserved populations by providing opportunities to explore the world. We do this by providing scholarships for readers, writers, and travelers.
I love to read. Always have. I’ve worked as a library page and a clerk in a bookstore. I also teach. When I taught elementary and high school, I spent a lot of my own money buying books for my classroom. As a college professor at Santa Monica College, I still find myself buying books for my students who cannot afford them. Recently, Books&Wanderlust partnered with the Do Good Bus to work with English Teacher Kathleen Hicks from Locke High School. Ms. Hicks is using her energy and hard-earned money to rebuild the school library that caught fire in the nineties and has yet to reopen.
When I was a college student, I struggled to pay for my textbooks each semester. As a professor, I see my students face the same struggle. Some students never get the books for their classes, and their grades suffer because of it, or they just drop out. Last spring semester, I had a student, Juan, who failed my class because he never purchased the books. His pride prevented him from speaking with me about his struggles. When he returned to my class this semester to try again, I simply handed him copies of the two novels he needed. We are over half way through the semester, and he is on track to pass. Thirty dollars can go a long way to helping a student succeed. The first part of our mission is to get books into student’s hands, either directly or through teachers.
As a minority writer who is working on a travel memoir, I know how difficult it is to break into the publishing industry. According to Lee & Low Publishers, in 2012, only 9% of children’s books were by/about people of color. An uproar over the all-white, all-male panel of children’s authors at BookCon in 2014 led to the creation of the non-profit organization We Need Diverse Books. Books&Wanderlust also believes that it is imperative to get the voices of diverse authors out into the world. The second part of our mission is to provide scholarships that help underserved populations attend writing conferences, take classes, and self-publish.
Wanderlust refers to my true addiction – travel. My definition of travel is: stepping outside my comfort zone and immersing in something new – culture, place, experience. That might simply mean visiting a new (to me) museum in my hometown, traveling in the States (I’ve never been to Utah), or exploring a foreign country (I’d really love to go to Rwanda). I grew up in Cleveland Heights, Ohio. In 1995, I moved to Mexico City, Mexico to teach first grade at an international school. I was twenty-five, and it was the first time that I ever met a Hispanic person. My college students, who are mostly Hispanic, have a hard time believing that story. They don’t understand that most of the country is not as diverse as Los Angeles. Living in Mexico blew away all the stereotypes I had internalized over the years. One of the greatest lessons I’ve learned by traveling is that – regardless of race, country of origin, income level, religion, sexual orientation – all people really want is to love, be loved and to provide a safe existence for their family. We may have different ways of achieving those goals, but in the end, we all share the same desires. The third part of our mission is to provide underserved populations with opportunities to travel both nationally and internationally.
I’m often asked what inspired me to start a non-profit.
Teachers who spend a lot of their own money doing a tough job without much recognition inspire me. I want to help them help their students.
Students who want to succeed but can’t afford their textbooks inspire me. I want to help them stay in school.
People who dream of experiencing another culture inspire me. I want to help them travel nationally and internationally.
People who have never thought about leaving the comfort of their home inspire me. I want to shake them up a bit and introduce them to a new idea.
In October we launched our 1000×100 campaign, which aims to raise $100,000 by July 31, 2015. We invite you to become a partner in this endeavor. Your contributions will allow us to begin giving scholarships at the start of the 2015-2016 academic year. By contributing $100 you can help us impact someone’s life. Please contribute today.