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Can Reading a Book Make a Difference?

September 24, 2009

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

Minda Siebert, senior community relations officer for Mercy Corps, says it's an unforgettable 'read.'

"It's firsthand stories of women who are empowered by, either an organization, or their family, or even themselves, to make a change. 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."

Mercy Corps is asking book clubs to raise awareness and money to support its programs that empower women. The authors of "Half the Sky" will visit the book club that achieves the most impressive record of activism. So far, Siebert says, more than 40 book clubs in Washington have signed up for the national challenge.

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

Clubs can sign up on the Mercy Corps' Web site at www.mercycorps.org/halfthesky.

Chris Thomas, Public News Service - WA