PEORIA, Ill. (WMBD) — Peoria leaders are using a thirst for knowledge and books of substance to stimulate and enrich the minds of the county’s troubled youth.
Gregory Wilson, president of the Peoria Public School Board, said he wants to get books that provoke thought, change, and inspiration to those inside of the Peoria County Juvenile Detention Center.
“It really can make a difference to how they view life currently,” Wilson said.
Wilson said he originally visited the county’s juvenile detention center in 2017 and again in August 2021. He said during those visits to the center’s library, he noticed a vital need.
“I saw a lot of books kind of focused generally towards other subject matter, not necessarily a “Think & Grow Rich” book, a Barack Obama autobiography,” Wilson said. “I didn’t see a lot of those books that really changed my outlook on life, that really changed my perspective on life, and I know the power that reading has.”
He said this is what inspired his idea for the Mind Over Matter book drive, which started on Sept. 2. It’s a community effort to collect books that Wilson said he hopes will open up the young readers’ third eye.
He said he’s partnering up with 19 local churches and a host of community leaders and organizations to collect books “of substance that can change a life” for the center. Wilson also said community leaders who donate books will write words of positivity on the first page.
“Before they read the first page of a book that can change their lives, they’re seeing from a community leader words of encouragement,” Wilson said.
Wilson said being able to read the words of prominent figures, who these kids may never get a chance to meet, can still lead them to gain traits and strategies from its authors.
“If there’s a Warren Buffett biography or a Bill Gates biography in that library, you can kind of touch and tap into who those individuals are,” Wilson said.
Marc Supreme, program director of 90.7 FM and host of RapPolitics, is one of Wilson’s partners who also spoke with some of the juveniles and visited the center’s library.
“We were looking for some self-help type of books because obviously, they’re [juveniles] in here for a reason, we don’t want them to return, we don’t want a revolving door,” Supreme said.
Supreme said it wasn’t until we went to grad school that he saw how impactful reading could be, and he believes certain books could change the trajectory these juveniles may be headed.
“Hopefully, something from those books applies to the real-life and the real world, and they can use that as they go on to their future,” Supreme said.
Wilson said so far they have more than 500 books and the deadline to donate is Nov. 14.
He said drop-off locations for the books are at the Peoria Public Schools Administration building on 3202 N Wisconsin Ave, and at both of the city’s Boys & Girls Club locations.
Wilson also said the book drive’s fliers are located in social service agencies throughout the city, and they have a QR code leading to an Amazon Wishlist of the kind of books they’re looking for.
He said if they end up with more books than the Peoria juvenile detention center can handle, he’ll give them to the one in Bloomington.