“Just because it’s easier to build strong children than repair broken men, doesn’t mean we leave men broken.” – Jason Wilson, Cry Like A Man
Literacy is about more than the ability to read words. It’s about using the power of those words to change the course of your life: to participate in your community, to achieve your goals, to create a better future for your children. That is the foundation of the Project Fatherhood Book Club, a weekly gathering of fathers hosted by Read Muskegon that engages men in reading books that provoke intense and often difficult conversations with a goal of changing life outcomes for the participants, their children and their larger community.
In 2010, former gang member turned community activist Big Mike Cummings asked UCLA gang expert Jorja Leap to co-lead a group of men struggling to be better fathers in Watts, South LA, a neighborhood long burdened with a legacy of racialized poverty, violence, and incarceration. These men came together each week to help one another answer the question ‘How can I be a good father when I’ve never had one?’ The book Project Fatherhood follows the lives of the men as they struggle with the pain of their own losses, the pressures of poverty and unemployment, and the desire to do better for the next generation. Recognizing similar struggles exist for men here in Muskegon County, the book became the inspiration for Read Muskegon’s Project Fatherhood Book Club.
The Project Fatherhood Book Club began in 2019 with a Diversity, Equity & Inclusion grant from the Anton Family Fund of the Community Foundation for Muskegon County. They funded the first 8-week session. As the group grew, the dads let us know that the book club needed to continue. Read Muskegon, along with our partner, Dads on Deck, has committed to making that happen. Our focus is to empower participants to break the generational cycles of illiteracy, incarceration and poverty.
The Project Fatherhood Book Club meets in 8-week sessions with each session focused on a book selected by the participants. Shared reading aloud from the book, discussion, and journaling are be incorporated into each session with a focus on using written text as the catalyst for processing difficult issues, expressing thoughts and feelings in a constructive manner, and setting personal goals. Read Muskegon’s instructor facilitates the process of shared reading in a way that is sensitive to all reading levels. Each week also incorporates a guest speaker or shared information that focuses on one of the social determinants of health such as: the importance of physical & mental health, cooperative parenting, father activity/fun time, financial literacy & stability, advocacy and engagement in children’s education. Participants who would like to receive extra reading support can meet one on one with a Read Muskegon tutor or staff member.
We need the financial support of our community to make this happen. Our goal is to raise $10,000 to support the book club through 2020. Funds will cover books, food, facilitators, materials, and family & community events developed by the dads. Please consider supporting this group of fathers who are working hard to change the outcomes for the next generation.