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Reaching Out to Teens of Substance

The Seattle Post-Intelligencer’s Celia Goodnow profiles the four YA authors who banded together to create Readergirlz.com, whose mission is ably summarized by their tagline: “gutsy girls reading gutsy literature.” The site, which officially launches on March 1 to coincide with the start of Women’s History Month, also aims to galvanize girls into taking action to change their schools, their communities and their sense of self. “The bottom line is getting girls to read great literature that will inspire them to reach out and be the best women they can be,” said Justina Chen Headley, a former Microsoft marketer and mother of two who conceived the site last May after touring for her most recent book, NOTHING BUT THE TRUTH (and a few white lies.)

On the tour she made a point of visiting urban, low-income schools that couldn’t afford to host author appearances. Though many of the girls she met were avid readers, Headley came away disheartened at the lack of support they received. “It profoundly shook me,” Headley said. “They actually had the best questions, yet their libraries were abysmal. None of them had met an author before.” So she started thinking, “Why can’t I provide a rich, literary experience online?” She recruited her former writing instructor Janet Lee Carey, Dia Calhoun and Lorie Ann Grover and a site was born.

And with the new site has come a great many positive reactions. Already, Headley said, Readergirlz has caught the eye of National Public Radio, Publisher’s Weekly, School Library Journal, local libraries and four of the all-girls schools in the area. She suspects the response is being fed by something deeper than a concern for literacy. “I think it’s a convergence of the girl-power movement with the way the world is messed up today.”

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