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Roseland, Pullman

Burst Into Books To Open Community Center And Bookstore For Kids Of Color In Roseland

The nonprofit with a focus on literacy plans to open "a space for the youth" of Roseland and the Far South Side in September, founder Jurema Gorham said. "When the kids walk in ... they'll say, 'This was created for me.'"

A young Burst Into Books reading club member poses with items he received for participating.
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ROSELAND — A Far South Side nonprofit is working to open a youth-focused space with a diverse bookstore and community garden for the start of the next school year.

Burst Into Books, a nonprofit promoting youth literacy and creativity, is renovating the first floor of the building at 11001 S. Michigan Ave. in Roseland into a community center. The organization aims to open its doors to the public Sept. 1, said Jurema Gorham, founder and executive director.

The space will host the organization’s existing programs like a book club, interviews with authors and illustrators, and reading workshops.

Burst Into Books will open a bookstore onsite, with reading material geared towards kids of color from birth through 12th grade. The store will also sell educational resources for parents and teachers.

Though some adult literature will also be for sale, “this is a space for the youth,” Gorham said. “When the kids walk in … they’ll say, ‘This was created for me.'”

A new 1921 coworking space and business incubator — named to honor Tulsa’s Black Wall Street and the race massacre in the district 100 years ago — occupies the building’s second floor. The nonprofit and incubator will sometimes share space for events, Gorham said.

Renovations to the building received a $250,000 boost from the city’s Neighborhood Opportunity Fund early this year. Gorham — who lives, teaches and went to high school on the Far South Side — said she hopes neighborhood residents can build on the two groups’ and the city’s investments.

“The more that you have people buying in their communities, you can really reimagine what that space looks like,” Gorham said. “My goal is this is one of many buildings we’re able to get ourselves, or help other people to get property in Roseland as well.”

Programs and events will be held at the center ahead of its official opening, Gorham said. A farmers market will be held Sundays from June 27-Oct. 24, and a spelling bee for 2nd-8th graders is planned for Aug. 7.

Credit: Provided
Gorham’s son James poses with crops from the nonprofit’s community garden last summer.

As Burst Into Books prepared to open its center, the nonprofit hosted a slate of virtual programs through the pandemic.

Free, twice-weekly tutoring sessions were organized last summer, while a series of monthly book club meetings that began early in the school year ended Saturday.

The organization plans to bring its book club back in-person next school year, as “hopefully by then more kids will be vaccinated” to safely show up at the center, Gorham said.

Organizers will keep an online element to the club, as there’s no reason to disrupt the “virtual community” that’s been built during the pandemic, she said. Online programs allow attendees “to experience something that you wouldn’t get to experience if we were in person.”

For example, Burst Into Books’ storytime series has drawn local authors and illustrators like Jahkil Jackson, the teen author of a children’s book on self-esteem.

Credit: Provided
Local artist Liz Brent led a virtual painting party for kids in March.

But the virtual format also made it easier to partner with national and international authors, as it’s cheaper to organize a video call than fly in an acclaimed writer, Gorham said.

Organizing a range of programs amid a global pandemic has kept Gorham busy — she said she’s planning to take a brief, clean break from all responsibilities for her upcoming birthday.

However, she relishes the challenge this last year has posed. Burst Into Books plans to “use this summer to do more connecting with the community, so come the fall — alright, we’re ready to go high speed into academics,” she said.

“Talking to schools and families, this year was a discouraging time,” Gorham said. “They’re really over school, over online [learning], over all of that. … The push has been, ‘How do we get families and kids excited about learning again?'”

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