Feb 25, 2015

Lenora Thompson, with some members of her “Boys Book Club,” at the KYW Newsradio studios. Cherri Gregg photo, KYW Newsradio.

Former Eastern PA Conference Lay Leader Lenora Thompson will be honored this week by Philadelphia’s KYW Newsradio as one its local Gamechangers, a program that celebrates Black History Month in February by recognizing local community heroes. Thompson, a member of Wharton-Wesley UMC in Philadelphia, will receive an award Wednesday night, Feb. 25, and then will appear on KYW TV’s Talk Philly show at 12 noon on Thursday, Feb. 26.

For the third year in a row, KYW Newsradio 1060 highlighted individuals who have “changed the game” for the African-American community in the Greater Philadelphia area. Gamechangers are individuals or organizations that have used their volunteer efforts and community influence to make a significant, positive change for people of color in the previous twelve months.

KYW Newsradio community affairs reporter Cherri Gregg interviewed Thompson and other Gamechangers several weeks ago. Those interviews were aired on KYW and can still be heard on podcasts.

In her interview (and in a related article) Thompson says she had no idea, when she intervened five years ago to stop a fight at an after-school program in South Philadelphia, that she would dedicate part of her busy life to helping black boys–and young men–enjoy reading.

“Some say that black boys can’t do,” she says, “but I think the expectations are not high enough.”

A trained reading specialist, she asked the 11-year-old boy was fighting to read a book together with her. “I was just shocked at how well he read,” recalls Thompson. When they finished it, he wanted to continue.  So “Miss Lenora,” as she is affectionately called, issued a challenge:

“I told him, ‘If you get me four other boys, we’ll start a book club.’ ”  Three weeks later, the boy showed up with several friends, and the “Boys Book Club” was born.

With her coaching and loving care, they began reading, writing book reports and presenting them when the group would gather at McDonald’s or other local restaurants and recreation venues. Then they started taking trips, including visiting colleges.

Today, 10 boys belong to the book club, which is now a non-profit ministry of Thompson’s church, Wharton-Wesley UMC. Others boys have matured into manhood; and nearly all have shown improved grades as the fruit of their efforts.

“For my boys, reading is the gateway to their future,” says Thompson, who expects each of the young men to go to college.  “I absolutely love every one of them, and they know it.  And I keep saying to them, ‘You can do it!’ ”

Be sure to read the full story on the CBS Philly Website. Also see a photo and caption about the Boys Book Club getting to see the film Selma for free last month in the Winter issue of NEWSpirit (page 12). Learn more…