Welcome to “7 Questions,” Judy Hijikata! Joining us from Arlington, Judy is the Communications Director of The Reading Connection (TRC), which brings books and literary services into shelters, safe houses, and transitional housing, thus opening the world of literature to all parents and children. She truly has some wonderful things to say about the power and importance of books, so … read on!
1. What was your most interesting recent project, initiative, partnership or event?
Last summer, TRC initiated a summer reading program called We Are Readers. As a direct result, kids in one of our partner sites read upwards of 1,000 hours over the summer. Funded by a grant from The Commonweal Foundation, We Are Readers was built on important elements of literacy development: increasing background knowledge through real-world experiences and time spent in conversation. The program got rave reviews from kids and staff at partner agencies. And it revved us (the staff) up all over again about how much fun reading to kids can be!
2. What else are you up to?
Lots of things! We’re going through a rebranding campaign. It’s resulted in a dashing new logo and there’ll be a new website in a few months. Another exciting thing is that we are moving to new offices in December. We’ll still be in Arlington, though.
3. Is there a moment, person, or event that inspired you to do this particular work?
The reason I’m at The Reading Connection is that I believe in the power of books to enrich people’s lives. Books develop imagination and empathy, as well as provide knowledge. Picture books — the fine ones — are works of art. The world would be a better place if TRC’s vision came to fruition: every child were a regular and passionate reader.
4. Who is your hero in the nonprofit/philanthropy world?
I’d say Beth Reese, who founded The Reading Connection and was the organization’s first ED. When I interviewed her a few years ago for our 20th anniversary celebration, I was wowed by the depth of her commitment to children and books AND by her warm, charismatic personality. In TRC’s early days, she had legions of volunteers building bookcases, sewing Welcome Bags, dusting shelves — in addition to volunteers reading to kids. Every time I talk to her I’m reminded anew of the power of authentic passion!
5. What advice do you have for other people who want to work in your field?
Read, read, read. Learn, learn, learn. The world is changing so quickly you have to keep learning new things all the time. That’s especially true in a small nonprofit where, chances are, your duties will change substantially over time.
6. What’s next?
The thing about living in the world of books is that there are always great new titles being published. On my to-read list are Chains and its sequel Forge by young adult author Laurie Halse Anderson.
7. If you could have a power breakfast with any three people, who would they be?
It would definitely be Warren Buffett, Bill Gates and Bill Clinton — the big guns of global philanthropy.
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