Artists for Literacy Poised to Change the World
We advocate for literacy as defined by the capacity to understand, interpret and communicate effectively in order to participate in one’s community and wider society. … We’re plugging literature into 21st century technology, art and culture. Stay tuned.
—from the Artists for Literacy website
She’s fighting illiteracy with song.
–San Francisco Chronicle
Twelve years ago, Deborah Pardes, a graduate of Barnard College of Columbia University and The Johns Hopkins Writing Seminars Program, was a touring musician, writing songs and playing guitar for audiences that thrilled to her vibe. However, it was another very well-known writer who shifted her focus away from the stage and into the world of not-for-profit service. For, after Pardes performed her song “7th-Step,” inspired by Frank McCormick’s book Angela’s Ashes, her crowds wanted to know more; they were fascinated with the story behind the song. It was this intrigue that pushed Pardes to seek a way to keep literature alive—through music.
“People were more interested in the book, than my song,” she recalls. “Long story short, I got a grant to create The SIBL Project [Songs Inspired By Literature]. Soon after, Artists for Literacy, an active non-profit, was born.
The project produced three CDs, and it was “quite the buzz.” The CDs were a calling card for a larger issue. “For six years, I toured libraries across the country.” On these publicity outings, Pardes shared her belief that the legacy of a story should not be locked away in a book. For the next two years, Pardes and SIBL received national attention. However, that’s just the beginning.
“I was the founder, but in 2006, chapter one ends, so to speak.” By 2009, with college teachers and students discussing Pardes’ work and requesting more tools they could use in the classroom to help them discuss and study how songs and books can be validly and powerfully connected, she realized that she needed the kind of money that only corporate sponsorship could provide. Further, she no longer desired to take money away from state libraries.
So, she tried to get it funded, “get corporate America” on board. But, Pardes admits, she had “no skill set. “It was really depressing.”
Pardes has a simple vision for her current project, which she is hoping to launch February 2013: The Literature ReMix Project will put on nation-wide contests where submissions come in the form of songs and music videos that have been inspired by books. Those that win will be connected with online teaching tools for literature teachers and parents to help ignite interest in reading.
“In other words, when a kid walks into a room and sees a brick on the table—a book,” teachers can engage kids by telling them about the URL to go to that will help them connect to literature.
“Kid are not illiterate by any stretch, but they are not literary.”
Pardes says she is sitting down with some large corporations right now to help her pitch her ReMix idea, but she is still struggling. “When Bruce Springsteen said ‘yes’ to me, that was the tipping point. [But] I need that flagship organization to make the leap.”
What can inReaders do to help?
“Somebody who is reading this may have a relative or friend with relevance to this demographic.” Pardes requests that if you do have any leads for her, please call or email. “I will fly wherever I need to and will, juggle, bake a pie, whatever it takes.” Contact us at inReads if you’d like to be put in touch with Pardes.