The Roots of the Sonya Project
The Illinois College Readership Project–or, The Sonya Project, named in honor of Dr. Ben Carson’s mother–links Illinois College students to at-risk children in Jacksonville’s public schools. When Carson was just a boy, there was little in his life that could have predicted that he would one day grow up to become a world-famous pediatric neurosurgeon. But his mother, Sonya, had big dreams for her two sons. Despite the obstacles she faced herself–she was a single mother who never finished high school–she nonetheless instilled in her boys a life-long love of learning that showed them the way to “dream big.” Every week, Sonya Carson required her sons to visit the public library and choose two books. The choice was theirs, but the expectation was not to be ignored. Ben and his brother would then have to “report” on the books they had selected (orally, when they were very young, but then in writing as they grew older). Ben grew up searching the library stacks for books that interested him and discovering a world that was much bigger than his own. Today, Carson has a foundation dedicated to building reading rooms across the country where children can find safe places to discover these other worlds and lift their eyes well beyond their immediate horizons. His foundation also raises money for scholarships for young people to pursue their dreams of college.
The mission of the Sonya Project at Illinois College is to assess the greatest needs in local education for low-income and high-risk youth and expand literacy through buddy reading, tutoring, and mentorship.
The goals of the Sonya Project at Illinois College are:
- to improve the overall scores on standardized test scores in low-income and high-risk schools
- to increase the enjoyment of reading and learning among at-risk youth
- to help form well-educated, productive citizens capable of using their political voice