Like many, Madeline Kerr’s love of reading and writing began at a young age.
Now 18, she is part of a newer organization at Rolling Meadows High School that is helping others find a passion for literacy by breaking down barriers of access and affordability.
Kerr, a senior, is part of the school’s National English Honor Society, a student group founded last school year to promote literacy within the community. Since its creation, the group has provided free books to Rolling Meadows students and recently hosted award-winning poet Kaveh Akbar, also a professor at Purdue University, to meet with students and talk about his writing process.
At the December 8 event, Akbar worked with 75 students throughout the day and encouraged them to think about new ways to write poetry. He ate dinner with the society’s leadership team and took questions from students, and later served as the keynote speaker at the society’s induction ceremony, where he read his poetry.
“He integrated his personal history and the human experience in his own poetry, which I thought was very cool,” said Rolling Meadows senior Lucia Skuldt. “He talked a lot about how he was interested in wonder and bewilderment in the world, and he encouraged us to write what we wondered about.”
The student organization is planning a number of activities for the near future, all aimed at helping promote reading and writing in and out of school, said Caleb Parnin, a Rolling Meadows English teacher and the group’s advisor.
Building a Little Free Library– a free book exchange – at Rolling Meadows High School, hosting a Dr. Seuss night for elementary children where free books are distributed and establishing a pen pal program between Rolling Meadows students and younger students are just some of the projects the students hope to tackle.
Since its creation, the group has seen a rise in membership. To be a part of the society, which is part of an international organization, students must have an A or B in English, demonstrate a strong liking for the subject area and submit an essay.
While service projects aren’t a requirement for members, it has become evident that students are excited about facilitating community outreach events and projects to promote literacy.
“In high school it seems as though teenagers don’t have time to read or they’ve lost a passion for reading,” said Kerr. “We want to try and go back to those younger students and keep instilling the passion for reading in them.”