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Daily Newscasts

Can Reading a Book...Make a Difference?

September 24, 2009

PORTLAND, Ore. - Mercy Corps, an Oregon-based humanitarian aid group, has launched a contest, asking book clubs to read "Half the Sky" and take action. It's part of the group's "One Table" campaign, an appeal to women to support programs that help other women lead their families out of poverty.

Members of book clubs typically read a book every month and get together to discuss it. But Mercy Corps wants them to do more than talk - to actually get involved in solving the problems presented in "Half the Sky," a new book by Nicholas Kristof and Sheryl Wu-Dunn. The authors cite real-life examples of women in developing countries in order to examine the issues of lack of education and health care, and sex trafficking.

It's an unforgettable read, according to Mercy Corps senior community relations officer Minda Siebert.

"These are first-hand stories of women who are empowered by an organization, their family or themselves to make a change. And it has a powerful message, even though the stories are heart-wrenching and really make you shake your head about what's going on in the world."

To raise awareness and money to support its programs that empower women, Mercy Corps will send the authors of "Half the Sky" to visit the book club that achieves the most impressive record of activism. Clubs can sign up on the Mercy Corps Web site,

So far, Siebert says, more than 60 book clubs in Oregon have signed up for the national challenge.

"We weren't exactly sure how many book clubs would really engage in this project. You know, do they read a book once a month, talk about it and then move on with their lives? Or do they do something else? We are finding that this book is really connecting with people, and they do want to do more."

Released in September, "Half the Sky" is published by Knopf and costs $27.95.

Chris Thomas, Public News Service - OR