Chicago Father Organizes Reading Club

Local dads reading in a elementary school classroom. Source: Today

A local dad on the South Side of Chicago is working to create change in his community by launching a reading and literacy initiative.

After spending nine months in prison for possession of a stolen vehicle, Joe Williams said he got a “wake up call” that caused him to reevaluate his priorities to be there for his family.

“It made me think a little bit differently,” Williams said.

After his release, Williams began volunteering in the lunchroom at his daughter’s elementary school. One day while volunteering, his daughter’s teacher needed someone to watch the students for a few minutes while she was wrapping up grading papers, so she called Williams into the classroom

Williams said  that was the beginning of the “Mr. Dad’s Father’s Club.”

He continued, “I went in and I picked up a book and I read a book to the classroom and the classroom received the book so much, they wanted me to start coming every week to read books for kids. And with me starting to do that, other fathers started to come in. They were like, ‘Hey, what’s going on? Can we be a part of this? Can we join?’ I (was) like ‘Absolutely.'”

Today, more than 150 fathers have joined The Mr. Dad’s Father’s Club.

“My goal is to get fathers back involved in their children’s lives and hopefully, one day, we would like to build a community center, where there’s a library and dads can just come in and we can offer more resources,” Williams remarked.

With a focus on outreach and monthly reading events, Williams has been nicknamed by some in the community as the “Black Mr. Rogers” for all of his work.

Recently to promote the work of The Mr. Dad’s Father’s Club, Williams has published his own book inspired by his relationship with his daughter.

“It’s called ‘My Daddy Is…’ and my daughter gave me the idea,” Williams said. “She just came into my room one night and she was like ‘My daddy is me.’ I’m like ‘My daddy is me, what do you mean by that? That’s some deep stuff right there, what are you talking about?'”

The book stresses the role of fathers being engaged in their children’s life and showcases Black and brown parents working across a diversity of professions.

To obtain a copy of William’s book please click here.

Source: Today