More Than Words (MTW) of Boston and Waltham has been announced by Massachusetts Center for the Book as the recipient of the 2020 Library of Congress/Massachusetts State Literacy Award. Funding for the state literacy awards program is made possible through the generous support of David M. Rubenstein, co-founder of The Carlyle Group and a major benefactor of our nation’s library.
Founded more than 15 years ago by Jodi Rosenbaum, CEO, More Than Words is a social enterprise that empowers youth ages 16-24 who are court-involved, in the foster care system, out-of-school, or homeless to take charge of their lives by taking charge of a business.
“More Than Words is honored to be recognized by the Library of Congress Literacy Awards and grateful to Mass Center for the Book for its nomination,” said Rosenbaum. “The young people we employ are bursting with potential, but are frequently denied the access to the resources, opportunities, and compassion they need to thrive. At MTW, they work approximately 20 hours per week learning critical customer service, technology, inventory management and leadership skills.”
More Than Words has established retail bookshops in Boston and Waltham as well as online, pop-up, and wholesale bookselling businesses and a high-end event space in Boston. All of these operations are staffed by the young people at the core of the MTW mission.
It has been three months since MTW made changes to their program in response to COVID-19. They closed their doors but continue to support youth by continuing to pay stipends so they can count on income to pay bills and buy food. Youth receive a base stipend for attending check-ins with Youth Development Managers and team meetings, and earn additional stipend payments by participating in workshops. As they begin to map reopening, MTW is no longer talking about going back, they are focused on building forward.
As MTW Boston Partner Yonis describes, “Regardless of everything that has been going on with the world today, MTW has been continuing to support youth by still paying us and having virtual sessions. Every Wednesday and Friday we have You time and Youth Development shifts. During these shifts we have been talking about how to manage time and keep ourselves busy during quarantine.” Similar to the hourly stipend that youth received prior to the COVID-19 crisis, this pay incentivizes engagement and participation in programming.
Sharon Shaloo, Executive Director of Massachusetts Center for the Book, joined in the accolades, saying, “MTW is a thriving example of the way books change lives, and a lesson in the commitment to mission and agility during crisis that is a model for all of us. We hope that the award we have been able to make on behalf of the Library of Congress State Literacy Awards will support their fundraising during these unprecedented times.”
Shaloo continued, “We admire MTW for the way that it delivers multiple literacies and competencies to youth most at risk, integrating them with business partners and customers throughout the community of the book in our commonwealth. We are heartened that the business model provides an important window into the occupations in the community of the book, a vital part of the commonwealth cultural and educational economies.”
The Massachusetts Center for the Book, chartered as the Commonwealth Affiliate of the Center for the Book in the Library of Congress, is a public-private partnership charged with developing, supporting and promoting cultural programming that advances the cause of books and reading and enhances the outreach potential of Massachusetts public libraries. For more information, contact [email protected] or visit http://massbook.org/.