Englewood Girls Read More, Explore Careers, Through ‘Progressionista’ Book Club

By Andrea V. Watson

ENGLEWOOD— Girls in Englewood are getting more excited about reading for pleasure thanks to a new book club that meets in the West Englewood Library.

Imagine Englewood IF has brought the Detroit-based book club Progressionista to the Greater Englewood community. Geared toward girls ages eight to 12, Progressionista encourages them to read for fun and be inspired by a professional woman, which is what Progressionista means.

With every free book the group reads, a professional woman is invited to speak to the young girls about her career. The guest is always someone who relates to the character or plot line in the current book.  

Miss Black Illinois Maya Pitts and Miss Black Illinois Talented Teen Kaylin Strahan were guest speakers at the first Progressionista event. [Instagram]

“Progressionista is truly where I see seeds being planted in the minds of black girls that can one day bloom into being journalists, scientists, tennis players, community leaders or whatever they dream,” said Michelle Rashad, co-organizer of the Chicago chapter and Imagine Englewood IF’s executive director.

Rashad and college friends Brittany Jett and Shanel Adams met at Howard University. After graduating in 2014, the three kept in touch. Adams decided to launch the nonprofit in her home city of Detroit, said Jett.

After seeing it do well there, Adams asked them if they’d be interested in starting a Chicago Chapter as a pilot program. The second chapter of Progressionista launched January of 2018. The girls meet once a month, usually every third Saturday of the month, at the West Englewood Library, 1745 W 63rd St. from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. They’ll be there this Saturday.

“I thought it would be a great program for Imagine Englewood If to launch, seeing that we are advocates for youth empowerment,” said Rashad. “I was very enthusiastic to partner and bring Progressionista to the Greater Englewood community because I saw it as more than a book club for young girls. I saw it as a safe space for girls to learn self value.”

Although they’ve only been meeting for a short time, Jett said the impact has already been made. The group of 11 has been more engaged in discussion, has opened up more and overall, just spends more time reading books than being active on social media and watching television, she said.

There are already several youth-focused mentoring programs in Chicago, said Jett, who’s the program manager, but this one is unique.

“This is more so geared towards reading,” she said.

Rashad said that parents have already commented on the change in their daughters. Those who never read are anxiously waiting for the next book, she said.

“It’s something so empowering about showing young girls they can find joy and excitement in-between pages of a book, which can lead to them finding joy and excitement in their academic studies, and even on their path of success,” Rashad said.

The goal is to attract more Englewood girls and eventually form other chapters, they said.

“Ideally, I would love to see it where you have these book clubs in every city, especially in neighborhoods that look similar to Englewood,” Rashad said.

They’re planning a tea party for the participants and guests in June, which is when the program will take a break until the fall.

Like Imagine Englewood on Facebook and follow Progressionista on Instagram.

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