William Hall, founder of "Acts of Love," a not-for-profit organization that hands out free books in poor communities across the country. | Mary Mitchell/Sun-Times
Updated: December 11, 2013 6:24AM
When William Hall, 29, pulled up to CHA’s Altgeld Gardens one day last summer, he drew a huge crowd.
But Hall wasn’t selling CDs or bootleg DVDs out of his trunk.
Hall, a youth minister and founder of “Acts of Love,” was pushing free books.
“We got to the cul de sacs, popped open the trunks, and we saw kids literally running to the cars, and leaving with more books than they could carry,” he said.
Hall created “Acts of Love” 2-1/2 years ago. The goal was to give away a million books to impoverished children across America. Since then, the Chatham resident has given away 101,112 books in Chicago, Detroit, Flint, Mich; Milwaukee, Minnesota, Atlanta, Memphis, Baltimore, D.C. and Gary.
Ebony Magazine named Hall as one of the nation’s most influential African-Americans in its 2013 Power 100 list that hit the newsstand this month.
“What I’ve seen in the last two years and through my own experiences is how the literacy and poverty are like brothers and sisters,” Hall said during a recent interview.
“We talk about the prison industrial complex. We talk about the absence of a father. We talk about the lack of access to education, but we are not talking about literacy.” During the summer, “Acts of Love” went to Englewood four times, and collaborated with Asiaha Butler, president and co-founder of R.A.G.E. (Resident Association of Greater Englewood) to establish a home library.
“Literacy and education seems to be on the back burner. I know books and reading can just take you to another place. It was important to offer that instead of candy and book bags,” she said.
According to the Chicago Citywide Literacy Coalition website, an estimated 882,000 or 30 percent of adults in Chicago have low basic literacy skills.
Additionally, “children of parents with low literacy skills who do not receive academic intervention in pre-kindergarten are 60 percent more likely to require costly special and remedial education,” according to a study by Southern Illinois University-Edwardsville, department of economics and finance.
What Hall witnessed while handing out books in poor neighborhoods may explain why so many children are struggling in the classroom.
“The times in which we have been invited into actual apartments and homes, you see more video games, more flat screen TVs and no books. No shelves for books,” Hall said.
“No matter how dilapidated [the home] is, or how bad the neighborhood is, you see TVs.”
That sounds about right.
Nielsen’s African-American Consumer 2013 Report found that African-Americans watch 37 percent more television than any other group.
In January, Hall is planning to launch a family-focused literacy effort called family literacy academies, the next phase of his “Acts of Love” campaign.
“Literacy is something that is not learned. It is taught. The parent academy is to teach parents that don’t know how to read, and also give them the resources to be better parents,” he said. “The first parent academy is planned for January and will be held at Bidler Elementary School in the Austin community.
“Our focus now is to begin to be the voice for the parent, and the voice for the child that does not have access,” Hall said.
“If you do not challenge a young person’s mind. If you do not give them content that can change their thinking, the way they live, their habits; then how can you say you love a child?” he asked.
For more information go to millionactsoflove.org