Burst Into Books is a foundation that was created in an effort to promote reading to students. Jurema Gorham not only wanted to tell stories through bringing this foundation to life but she also wanted to help the younger generation find their love for books. Just recently, Gorham held a conference called Remixing The Narrative to allow young women to build sisterhood while promoting literacy. We caught up with Jurema to discuss the inspiration to create Burst Into Books, what she’s currently working on, and more!

Tell us about yourself.

Jurema Gorham affirms Burst Into Books as an organization that is rooted in instilling our children with the essential tools to grow academically. A life-long learner, Jurema has taught professionally since 2008, working with grades K-12. Seeking inspiration along her professional career, Jurema stays in student mode all the time. When she was pregnant with her son, she yearned for advancement in her career, so Jurema decided to pursue her first Masters’ degree in Educational Leadership. She moved from elementary education to high school, teaching at the freshman level. She noticed many students had learning disabilities. Students were supposed to be at a certain level, but many were not. Here she realized the importance of differentiation learning, so in 2016, inspired by the students who didn’t receive individual support, she went back to school to earn a second Masters’ degree in Differentiated Instruction. Within the last couple years, Jurema moved out of the classroom, coaching teachers and helping them to reach the needs of each individual student. Currently pursuing her Phd, Jurema’s mission is to help focus on the school system and attack many of the loopholes such as standardized testing and other factors why students aren’t mastering tests, excelling and more. Jurema’s experience with navigating relationships between parents, students, administrators, teachers and communities have provided her with a clear advantage of helping address the educational and systemic issues while creating impact outside of the classroom.

As she enters her 12th year as an educator, she understands the power of being a strong reader. Not only does reading opens a new world to your child, they will strengthen their ability to excel in all of their subjects in school. As she continues to push her son, Trey to explore the world through reading, Jurema’s personal mission is to take along as many children as possible on the same adventure. Jurema is committed to creating a safe space for all children to engage with text and dialogue which is remarkably needed in the community.

What inspired the creation of Burst Into Books?

In 2018, education professional, Jurema Gorham was in search of a book club for her 7-year-old son who loved to read. Like many boys his age, Trey was into sports, but as a mother, Jurema was on the hunt for a program to stimulate his mind and engage in literacy outside of school hours. In addition she wanted the program to provide parental support. There was no luck. So Jurema did what any problem solving, thought leading parent and educator would do: she created a solution to bring impact to Chicago’s south side children, families and communities.  And so Burst Into Books was born. 

Jurema recruited educated friends to join the team to support children ages 6 months to 18 years old. Jurema’s principal allowed her an opportunity to use her school as a space to host informational and book club meetings. Along with the team, over twenty people showed up at the informational. From there, they invited guest authors, formed groups based upon expertise, and researched book donations and grants. Art tables with crafts, games, chrome books and online reading was made available. Jurema transformed the teacher lounge into a make-shift parent lounge so parents could use the time to read, relax or catch up on work emails. It was also important for the program to be free.

As the program grew, the parents began to ask for support at home with their children’s academic studies. As a response, Burst Into Books introduced online workshops, Lit Talk. Through the online workshop initiative, reading specialists provided reading and writing tips for all ages and levels, once a month. Shortly afterwards, The Front Row was rolled out, an online Facebook Live show where literacy experts shared their stories on how they got into writing and answered questions in real time. Guests tuned in from all over. Philly, California, South Carolina, Vegas and more. Both Lit Talk and The Front Row promote literacy and provide powerful online workshops for the Burst Into Books community. 

Yoga was introduced to families while incorporating literacy. Story time and yoga with parents and children became a favorite. Then there were family Paint & Sip events in which Burst Into Books partnered with bookstores and introduced Family & Educator night. In order to fill the gap as it relates to the lack of diversity in book publicity, the organization spotlighted books by authors of color.

By 2019, Burst Into Books has created a visible presence, providing diverse storytellers, and accessible reading programs that are culturally relevant in Roseland, Pullman, Englewood, Gresham, Auburn and Hyde Park, and by focusing on the unique needs of these individual Chicago communities.

Tell us about Remixing the Narrative.

Remixing the Narrative is our mantra to redefine negative images and beliefs about people of color. Remixing the Narrative, LLC. is committed to creating spaces and programming that empowers our community to build, heal and learn the skills needed to be change agents. Our programming includes annual conferences, workshops, weekly podcast, consulting services, specialized classes and community events.

What are you currently working on?

We will be kicking off our Online Summer Intensive Tutoring Program for students between grades Kindergarten and 12th grade. We were able to raise funds to offer the program free to 50 students. Our goal was to raise $9600 by July 1st to cover all the costs. However, we were able to raise $10,895 by June 30th! Our tutors will offer each child one on one instruction to help them make academic growth.

In addition, we were are planning our Fall Virtual Book Clubs that will start September 2020 and end May 2021. Our book clubs range from ages 6 months to 18 years old. At each book club session, we have a guest author for each group, interactive activities, reading guides and access to free books. Our goal to help each child fall in love with literature and know they have the power to share their story.

What can we expect to see from you in the future?

On June 4, 2020, we purchased our commercial building in the heart of Roseland community on the corner of 110th and Michigan Avenue. We are excited about hosting both programming for Burst Into Books and Remixing the Narrative, LLC. Currently, we are preparing to fully open January 2021. Our Burst Into Books’ programming will include book clubs, tutoring services, workshops, community garden, specialized courses (i.e. cooking classes, career training) and creative writing program. Our goal to continue to support the great work that is being done by community. Also, be an additional place for support for the city of Chicago.

All images by Michelle Dokes