Visitors Praise the Reading Circles Program in São Paulo
The following were some of the comments of the Consul for Political Affairs at the US Consulate in São Paulo after his recent attendance at a Reading Circles session:
- “I joined Norman Gall this past Saturday with his reading group at his home. This initiative that he is carrying out – that of inviting favela kids to read tough books with him, meeting every two weeks – is VERY interesting.”
- “I met with the older group, which is now working its way through Obama’s autobiography, Dreams of My Father, in Portuguese. Some of the books they have or will read are the following: James Joyce, Ulysses, The Autobiography of Ben Franklin; and David Landes, The Wealth and Poverty of Nations. Gall provides copies of the books in Portuguese as well as a place to meet and a hot lunch.”
- “The kids are very sharp, sincere, and eager to get ahead. They struggle with some challenging circumstances.”
- “In many ways, there is more of a convergence of perspectives and interests between the U.S. and the more humble folks here than with any other group. I mentioned briefly the importance of studying U.S. History, in making education outward looking. The kids complained about what they called narrow-spectrum approaches to teaching history here and the poor instruction in English. Apparently, at least some public schools...had special centers where students can get extra instruction in French and German, but that English is not taught in these reinforcement centers, but is given as a regular subject and that the teaching quality for English is very poor.”
- “Gall is doing something quite unique here. It’s one of those points of light that could really become a spark.”
Brazilian writer Gilberto Dimenstein highlighted his recent experience at a Reading Circle session in his column in the Folha de S. Paulo:
"And talking about reading, last week I had an unforgettable educational experience. I visited a group of adolescents studying at public schools in the periphery, who participate in the Reading Circles of the Fernand Braudel Institute, a program where they read and discuss the classics. Last Thursday, a group was reading Thomas Mann’s Joseph and His Brothers. They were discussing the concepts of soul and spirit in the book. I was paralyzed, admiring the depth with which they read and discussed this complex work, searching for different references – Plato, for example. The task of unveiling the text’s complexity, relating it to life, was not a problem, but rather a source of pleasure for them. This experience is the best and deepest indicator of a community’s potential, when we know how to teach – and the students love to learn. Many of these young people become group leaders, conducting groups with other students to read and discuss the classics at public schools."
Read the entire article...
A Letter to the Director:
Thank you for the inviting me to the Reading Circle. It was an enjoyable and moving experience. Basically you are giving these kids the equivalent experience of a privileged first rank US university and certainly this is going to change their lives.
I think that it is the quality of what you are doing and the investment you made in the house and the running of the house and your and Catalina’s charisma and personal investment that are the real motivating factors in this story. For this to be replicated you will need to clone yourselves… but I could imagine that a retired executive or other professional could be motivated by the challenge of trying to do the same thing in another city.
I believe there is a saying in our culture – if you save one life you save the world.
A Letter to the Director:
Thank you so much for allowing me to spend some time yesterday sitting in on your Peer Leader Reading Circle session. The experience was both inspiring and exceptionally impressive, both in terms of the quality of your teaching and leadership abilities as well as the very, very high level at which your students and the peer leaders are studying and learning. I was thoroughly impressed across a range of dimensions, including the powerful insights the students were making regarding very challenging literature, as well as their maturity, empathy, and clear leadership skills, not to mention their overwhelming adoration for the Reading Circle program and how it has meaningfully shaped and enhanced each of their lives. In short, I was blown away by the whole experience. Well, well done - you're achieving amazing things.
I will be in touch on my next trip to Brazil as I would very much like to visit one of your schools where Reading Circles take place, to better understand some of the challenges inherent in the environment in which your organization and your students operate and live. With warmest regards,