Reading program helps juvenile offenders clean record

SOUTH BEND Can a book change a life? That is a question a mentoring program in South Bend is taking very seriously.

Reading for Life was established in 2007 as a diversion program for first-time non-violent juvenile offenders. The combination of caring adult mentors and literature has been so successful, the program has grown.

"They've also begun working with kids who've been detained," said Pete Morgan, the Executive Director at the St. Joseph County Probate Court and Juvenile Justice Center (JJC). "These are generally kids at a higher risk than those diverted from the program."

Reading for Life works in partnership with the JJC, but it's in the process of becoming a 501(c)(3) nonprofit. Currently, it is funded mostly through probate user fees and fundraising.

Participants read a variety of young adult novels ranging from popular books like "Divergent" and "The Help," to newer novels like "The Pull of Gravity," from an author out of New York. Gae Polisner joined the program after hearing about the high success rates.

"I worried at first maybe they wouldn't connect or relate to my book or would be bored by it," said Polisner. "So, I think I was actually pleasantly surprised by how very much they seemed to connect with the story."

Polisner will be traveling to South Bend to address the community on May 20 and 21. She will host a book signing at Barnes and Noble at the University Park Mall on May 20 from 5-8:00 p.m. She will host a Question and Answer Session May 21 from 5-8:00 p.m. at the Kroc Center.

To learn more about Reading for Life, click here.

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