Volunteer of the Year honored for helping Crime Prevention Unit youth literacy programs
May 25, 2021
“I believe in the power of books.”
Linda Sherman-Nurick most certainly does. “Books have the power to help us see things we might not otherwise see,” she adds.
Linda has shared that love of books and the power they hold with the community since 2012 through her store, Cellar Door Bookstore in Riverside.
She was recently recognized by the DA’s Office as the 2020 Volunteer of the Year for her tremendous contribution to the literacy programs our Crime Prevention Unit (CPU) runs for incarcerated and at-risk youth.
CPU has two literacy programs, Real Men Read and Women Read And Parlance, operating in the county’s lockdown juvenile justice facilities. There is a direct correlation between illiteracy and rates of incarceration so these programs were designed to spark the youths’ interest in reading and provide them with guest speakers who can serve as positive role models and mentors.
The incarcerated youth who participate in these programs do so voluntarily.
In 2020, even with pandemic restrictions, the literacy programs saw 134 juveniles participate countywide during which they read more than 100,000 pages of literature and 286 books cover-to-cover.
Since CPU started the programs in 2013, there have been 2,051 participants. They have read 1.69 million pages and completed 4,312 books cover-to-cover.
Linda helped arrange a popular guest speaker, Nic Stone, who interacted with the youth late last year.
Stone is a New York Time best-selling author who wrote Dear Justyce, a non-fiction book that tells the story of an incarcerated youth writing letters about his experience in the juvenile justice system.
“It is so cool to see these kids react with guest speakers like this,” said Deputy DA Hunter Taylor of our CPU. “They are ‘star struck’ and it is great to see that about an author.”
“They enjoy having adults listen to them and hearing their ideas,” he added.
Linda sees the same relevance for the youth connecting with books and these guest speakers.
“It is important to see yourself and I think books can do that for the reader,” she said.
That was one of the reasons Linda said she wanted to connect Nic Stone with these young people as her book Dear Justyce could speak directly to them.
“These kids need to feel like the community cares about them as actual human beings,” Linda said.
Linda also donates numerous books to the CPU programs and other groups and schools.
Often, those books are “advance reader copies” authors and publishers send to bookstores to review. She can’t sell those copies and must donate them. So, these young people are sometimes reading books that the public hasn’t even been able to read yet.
Linda also holds fundraisers and donation events so the local community can help provide books for the youth.
“Our community generously donates,” she said. “We ask them to read the book themselves then donate them for the incarcerated youth.”
CPU’s Hunter Taylor said it is exciting to see these donated books getting passed around among the incarcerated youth and donations like Linda provides “keep things fresh” with an influx of new books.
The importance of what Linda has provided these programs through her connections in the community and with authors and publishers can’t be overstated. She and those donating books to CPU are making a significant difference in the lives of incarcerated youth in our county.
“Her devotion to these programs is both humbling and inspiring,” District Attorney Mike Hestrin said about Linda when announcing she was being recognized as Volunteer of the Year.
We invite you to watch a video recognizing Linda with our PRIDE (the Program Rewarding Incentive of District attorney Employees) Volunteer of the Year award here: https://youtu.be/NV0d8-20AZ8
Cellar Door Bookstore is in the Canyon Crest Towne Centre at 5225 Canyon Crest Drive, #30A, Riverside. Their website is www.cellardoorbookstore.com.