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Awards dinner aids CPL programs

Thu, Nov 1, 2012

The Carl Sandburg Literary Awards (CSLA) dinner on Wednesday, October 17 offers the chance to dine with local literati and to simultaneously benefit Chicago Public Library (CPL) programs at 79 branches across the city.

This year’s Sandburg Award winners Don DeLillo (Underworld, Cosmopolis) and Walter Isaacson (Steve Jobs), as well as 21st Century Award winner Nami Mun (Miles from Nowhere) will be led in an intimate discussion by National Public Radio (NPR) host and author Scott Simon (Pretty Birds, Windy City, Jackie Robinson and the Integration of Baseball). The event will be at The Forum, 725 W. Roosevelt Road on the campus of the University of Illinois at Chicago.

Other prominent authors with ties to Chicago will be seated at each table in order to converse with guests from the city’s business, civic and cultural communities. “To be in a room with more than 65 noted authors, all of whom have contributed mightily to Chicago’s literary legacy, is a truly impressive experience,” said Rhona Frazin, president and CEO of the Chicago Public Library Foundation.
Authors include:

Edgar Award winners and past Carl Sandburg 21st Century Award honorees Blue Balliett (Chasing Vermeer) and Theresa Schwegel (Officer Down);
One Book, One Chicago author Stuart Dybek;
New York Times best-selling novelist and Chicago Magazine sports columnist Jonathan Eig (Luckiest Man, Opening Day);
Pulitzer Prize finalist for fiction Ward Just (Unfinished Season);
Pulitzer Prize and Tony Award-winner Bruce Norris (Clybourne Park);
Gillian Flynn, (New York Times best-seller Gone Girl)

Still others include young adult fiction author Kat Falls; cartoonist Nicole Hollander; celebrated broadcasters Lee Phillip Bell, Bill Kurtis, Rick Kogan and Walter Jacobson; master sommelier and host of Check Please Alpana Singh; world-renowned photographer Victor Skrebneski; architect Stanley Tigerman, Bronzeville historian Timuel Black; U.S. Sen Adlai Stevenson III and best-selling authors Scott Turow, Aleksandar Hemon and Sara Paretsky.

The evening is the only major fundraising event of the Chicago Public Library Foundation. Proceeds support innovative Library programs such as One Book, One Chicago; the Family Summer Reading program; Teachers in the Library; Cyber Navigator computer tutors and other teen and early learning initiatives.

One Book, One Chicago is perhaps the best known program of the Chicago Public Library Foundation. This year’s selection is Markus Zusak’s The Book Thief, about a young girl who saves books from being destroyed by the Nazis during World War II. The foundation will bring Zusak to Chicago for a free public program October 22; Chicago Tribune columnist Dawn Turner Trice will interview him at 6 p.m. at the Harold Washington Library, 400 S. State St. No reservations are required but seating is first come, first served.

“It’s difficult for all of us, but especially difficult for kids who see violence in their community, who see other kids being bullied,” Frazin said of The Book Thief. “So the theme of it is how everyone can take action against injustice.”

The Chicago Public Library and cultural organizations throughout the city are coming together with One Book, One Chicago around this theme, she said. Facing History and Ourselves has an exhibit at the library and is doing curriculum in schools on genocides around the world as well as the Holocaust of World War II. “The goal is to have young people understand the roots of these genocides and how they in their own lives can stand up,” she said.

Steppenwolf Theater is also doing an adaptation of The Book Thief for young adults from October 16 through November 9 in its upstairs theater.

The Family Summer Reading program, meanwhile, has kept children engaged in learning while they are out of school for over 20 years. This summer’s theme was “You are What You Read” and the Library partnered with Lurie Children’s Hospital and Comer Children’s Hospital as well as the Chicago Department of Public Health and Consortium to Lower Obesity in Chicago (CLOCC) around the theme of healthy living and lifestyle, fitness and exercise. More than 60,000 unduplicated children read over 1.5 million books, enlivened by presentations from puppeteers or musicians. Their parents could also get involved, though an adult curriculum that included chefs, nutritionists and fitness experts.

More family growth can come from the CyberNavigator program, which funds tutors who provide one-on-one help with computer skills: everything from understanding a mouse and keyboard to opening an email account and writing a resume. There are 47 cyber navigators, one at each of 47 branch libraries, part-time at 20 hours a week.

Teachers in the Library is yet another CPL Foundation program that employs certified teachers in 56 branch libraries who provide free help with homework from 3:30 to 6:30 p.m. Mondays through Thursdays. The teachers, who oversee homework but do not tutor, are current public and parochial school teachers, retirees and others on leave and raising families. There is usually one teacher per branch, paid at the same scale they would receive for after-school activities such as debate coach or sports coach, Frazin said.

Teachers in the Library program participants are generally elementary school students, but Frazin said that Sudanese refugees working on their English came daily to the Rogers Park branch to work with a teacher.

“We figure the teachers provided almost 24,000 hours of homework help last year,” Frazin said. “If we had the funding, we could accommodate teachers at every library in the city.” The program also only operates during the regular school year, but she would also like to see it expand as more schools go to a year-round calendar.

Last year’s Foundation dinner raised $1.2 million and this year’s goal is $1.3 million; the CPL Foundation contributes between $5 million and $6 million annually to library programming, supplemented by grants and individual donations. Co-chairs of the dinner are Michael J. Sacks, CEO of Grosvenor Capital Management; and Trisha Rooney Alden, CEO of R4 Services Waste Management Recycling Co. Donna LaPietra is volunteer event producer.

Sponsorship packages for tables of eight guests plus a renowned author are available at the $50,000, $25,000, $15,000 and 10,000 levels. Individual tickets are $1,000 and $2,000 and reservations are strictly limited. More information is available at www.cplfoundation.org or by calling Carolyn Branton at the CPL Foundation (cbranton@cplfoundation or 312.201.9830 x 25.

Written by Suzanne Hanney,
StreetWise Editor-In-Chief

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