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Can Reading a Book...Make a Difference?

October 6, 2009

LANSING, Mich. - Members of book clubs in Michigan typically read a book every month and get together to discuss it. But Mercy Corps, a humanitarian aid group, wants them to do more than talk; to actually get involved in solving the problems presented in a new book. 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.

The book, "Half the Sky," by Nicholas Kristof and Sheryl WuDunn, 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 with 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. 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."

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

So far, Minda Siebert of Mercy Corps says scores of clubs have signed up for the national challenge.

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

The Web site is www.mercycorps.org

The book, released this month, is published by Knopf and costs $27.95.

Glen Gardner, Public News Service - MI