QUEENS — A new reading series in Jamaica is asking asking guests to donate children's books to be distributed at local schools, in a bid to drive up literacy in the area, organizers said.
The first Jamaica Center Reading Series, the brainchild of the Jamaica Center Business Improvement District, will start this Thursday, Oct. 9, and will continue until Dec. 18.
For nearly three months, local literature lovers will get a chance to listen to a number of writers and poets who will read at various venues around the neighborhood, including the Jamaica Market, the former Valencia Theatre and the Jamaica Center for Arts and Learning.
The events are free, but the organizers are asking participants to donate at least one book for children.
According to statistics provided by the BID, which collaborates on the project with The South Jamaica Reads, an initiative that organizes literacy programs for children and families in the area, less than 20 percent of students in South Jamaica read at grade level.
On Oct. 30, the series will feature an event for children, which will be held in the historic Valencia Theatre, which currently serves as the Tabernacle of Prayer church.
The series will also include a poetry slam on Dec. 18, which will feature Samantha Inniss, the founder of Art, Food and Soul, a Jamaica-based group which focuses on promoting the arts in the neighborhhod.
Scott Cheshire, who recently wrote a novel called “High as the Horses’ Bridles,” will read on Thursday, Oct. 9, and Mira Jacob, the author of “The Sleepwalker’s Guide to Dancing,” and co-founder of Pete’s Reading Series in Brooklyn, will read on Dec. 11.
The reading series will be one of the largest ever held in the neighborhood and could become an annual event, said Johanne Civil of the BID.
“We are trying to create concrete programs so that everyone in the community has an opportunity to participate, whether it’s children, whether it’s the elderly or young teens,” Civil said. “There is something for everyone."