Roseland woman helping community advance love of literacy

Remarkable Women
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Jurema Gorham has big dreams and big plans that involves her love of literacy.

“If a child can read, they’re going to soar in so many different areas,” she said.

She brought a building on the corner of 110th and Michigan in the Roseland neighborhood last June. The 15,000 square foot space will hold events and programs she says her community lacks, especially for young kids like her 9-year-old son, James.

When she lived in Alsip, Gorham said there were different programs her son could be a part of. However, when she moved back to the city, she questioned why some libraries didn’t offer certain programs.

“So it is what made me feel like, ‘why do we have to keep traveling out of our neighborhood to go do different things?'”

In 2018, Gorham started her non-profit “Burst into Books“.

“Literacy is the foundation of everything,” she said. “By trade, I’m a science teacher, however, reading in and out is a science.”

Gorham shifted to virtual book clubs, bedtime readings and tutoring during the pandemic. Despite the change, “Burst into Books” has it’s been an outlet for Whit Deveraux’s two daughters.

“It’s places like “Burst into Books” that I call like my village,” Deveraux said. “That helps to not feel alone because I’m a single mom, so it helps to have them into programs.”

Deveraux nominated Gorham for WGN’s Remarkable Women.

Deveraux’s fifth-grade daughter Janae McKinney says she loves to write. “With writing, you can get really deep into a subject,” she said. “Whenever I really like a topic or anything, I really just go deep into the subject.”

Deveraux’s tenth-grade daughter Anaya Scott says reading is therapeutic. “It helps me to imagine that I’m the character and I’m in their shoes, and I just feel like I’m in a whole other world.”

The new building, Gorman says, is just the framework of what she has in store for her community.

“If you go to many of these neighborhoods, if you go down even Michigan, there are a lot of abandoned buildings, businesses that have left, so I’ve been excited, we’ve were able to get the NOF grant, the Neighborhood Opportunity Fund, because they are seeing neighborhoods [and saying] ‘we need to invest more,’ because it’s not as if the people are not looking for it, it’s that people are not investing in these spaces.”

Recently, Gorham was awarded a $250,000 grant for “Burst into Books,” the non-profit’s largest.

“It’s the groundwork that everything else builds off of,” Gorham says.

She is also helping to lay the groundwork for her community.

“I have been a mother who has had to get into the food pantry and things like that,” she said. “So when I hear about people giving back and feeding the hungry, that really touches me. So she’s looking at it as a way of not only reaching the children but making sure the whole family can thrive.”

She’s doing it all while earning her PhD.

“How do you have the time to do all of this? That is the magic question, I get asked that a lot,” she said. “I just believe that you make time for what you want. This energizes me, I don’t feel tired.”

Click here for more information about “Burst Into Books.”

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