Ina Pinckney, left, with Karen Thomson, founder and executive director of Literature for All of Us. Photo by Pamela Ferdinand

Nearing its 20th year, Evanston-based Literature for All of Us hosted a High Tea fundraising event with Ina Pinckney, Chicago’s “Breakfast Queen” and Chicago Tribune columnist, in North Evanston on July 23.

Founded in 1996 by Karen Thompson, Literature for All of Us uses a unique book-group model to help teen parents and other youth in underserved neighborhoods develop literacy and critical thinking skills. The youth read books and participate in weekly book discussions, which are followed by poetry writing exercises in which the youth explore and develop the themes they read and discussed. The youth share their views in public poetry readings and published anthologies. The youth become part of a community of readers and build confidence, self-esteem and overcome barriers to learning.

Literature for All of Us also develops family literacy by providing children’s literature and child development resources to teen parents.

The organization initially served teen mothers and girls for almost 10 years before branching out and piloting its first program for boys in 2006. Book groups for boys now represent 20% of all current programs. The organization serves between 600 and 700 young people, ages 12 to 21, each year. In 2005, it received the national Coming Up Taller award from the President’s Committee on the Arts and the Humanities.