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Thursday, July 6, 2017

Local Authors Want to Inspire Pasadena Public School Students With More Real-Life Stories

Jervey Tervalon (l) and Tom Coston (r)

Pasadena non-profit Light Bringer Project is about to launches the fifth issue of its online literary journal created by local authors as a resource for engaging and inspiring underserved public school students with relatable stories that are often missing in textbooks.

“Literature For Life” provides greater Los Angeles area young people with tailor-­made lesson plans designed to help teachers introduce locally-produced writing and artwork into their classrooms, so that students may see themselves and their communities better represented in their curriculum.

The free resource is published in two issues a year and contains a collection of fiction and nonfiction, poetry, short stories, articles, essays, and artwork from both award-winning authors and emerging young writers.

“The idea is to introduce current contemporary literature in the main from Los Angeles emerging writers into the classrooms of underserved public schools,” explained Tom Coston, president of Light Bringer Project.

“Ultimately, the bottom-line is to cultivate a love of reading and writing again by making stories that are relatable and current for students that have to do with their lives that are things that they can easily identify with.”

“Literature For Life” was created in 2011 by Altadena author Jervey Tervalon who spent five years as a teacher in the Los Angeles Unified School District being dissatisfied with the textbooks that he was forced to use with his lesson plans.

“I hated the textbooks. They’re so expensive and they never reflect the diversity of California, and our region like Pasadena. What we’re trying to do is break that wall and make it possible for kids of color in particular to see themselves in reading material,” said Tervalon.

Tervalon’s professional experience which includes being named a Los Angeles Times best-selling author of five books and holding faculty at major institutions such as UCLA, USC and UC Santa Barbara, has allowed him to recruit emerging writers to contribute to the online journal.

“We have [content] from writers that have strong reputations, but also we publish people for the first time,” said Tervalon. “We’re there at the beginning of people’s careers and we’re there when they’ve made a name for themselves.”

Notable contributing writers include Pulitzer Prize-winning food writer Jonathan Gold, mystery writers Gary Phillips and Naomi Hirahara, and novelist Janet Fitch, among others.

“We want it to look and read like Los Angeles,” said Coston about the diversity of writers and the story content that goes into each issue.

“Literature for Life” has published four issues that have proven to be both a tremendous outlet for writers and artists to showcase their work as well as a go-to resource for middle and high school teachers throughout Los Angeles.

“Everything from the junior high school level on up we think we have material that will make our students into young people that are passionate readers–that’s our primary goal,” said Tervalon.

The dedicated authors have even designed special curriculum for each issue as a way to give students a comprehensive reading list to follow.

“They’re not bound to have to use our curriculum. It’s just a guide for them to be able to get the most out of not just the the story that’s available, but the work that can be done in the classroom around it by the students,” said Coston.

Tervalon is inspired by the diverse pieces of literature the program is able to provide for students that come from all walks of life.

“One day, I brought a fictional story about a girl being raped and a guy getting shot, and this one black kid read it, and he said, ‘This isn’t a real story, is it?’ He thought it wasn’t legitimate because it was interesting. That was the ultimate compliment for what I was trying to do—circumvent textbooks by bringing in stories that create a sense of immediacy,” Tervalon said in a statement on the Literature For Life website.

Literature for Life introduced the literary arts into three Los Angeles Unified School District metropolitan public schools over the 2016-2017 school-year.

“We’re trying to get in the classrooms here in Pasadena,” said Tervalon. “Finding material, creating curriculum for it and expanding it is the most important thing at this point,” added Tervalon.

Literature For Life also hosts workshops where students can interact with the authors to further develop their own writing skills, according to the website.

“If we don’t give young people room and space and opportunity to develop their own ideas it’s really going to limit them in their lives. Language is the most important way that we relate to each other as humans and that’s an important place to start in their learning experience in schools,” explained Coston.

Literature For Life will celebrate the launch of the journal’s fifth issue at an intimate garden party on July 16 from 4:00 p.m to 7:00 p.m. at author Marie Lee Carrol’s home located at 1075 East Topeka Street.

The launch party will feature readings and art by Issue 5 contributors and will give attendees a chance to try out the new curriculum.

For more information and to access past issues, go to



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