Tag Archives: adult literacy

Calling the right kind of author…

Adult learners need more than kids’ books.

People who follow us know that Gemma works hard to provide engaging, smart literature for people who struggle to read, comprehend English, or finish a book. We introduce new and emerging readers to stories from best-selling authors and important new voices that can inspire, make us laugh, and sometimes make us weep. Instead of children’s books, adults and young adults need age-appropriate content that relates to everyday experience.

If you are an author and have the interest and the discipline to write a compelling story of 10,000 words or less at a low reading level (we’re talking about third grade, even lower) we are ALL EYES.

We can help with frequent chapter breaks—for a steady sense of accomplishment—and vocabulary. And we can suggest some topics that our audiences ask for all the time: immigration experiences, healthcare journeys, relationships, aging, incarceration, single-parenting, gang violence, coming of age, sports! We’ll help build the book, the eBook, and the audio where appropriate. We ask you to remember the book that made you first fall for reading and try to replicate that feeling for someone who hasn’t had the chance.

Gemma Open Door is a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization, and our books are supported by generous donors as well as low-cost sales to libraries and literacy groups. So, no, there is little money in this. Rather, there is the incredible satisfaction of helping folks experience what so many of us take for granted: the power of reading and the love of books.

Click here for some guidelines and be in touch!

And thanks for all you do to support reading. As UNESCO affirms and we agree, literacy is a human right.

The Orchard

Catherine Temma Davidson

A Gemma Open Door book

Old apricot trees in a hidden valley yield jars of newly-made jam. The dream of holding on to the family orchard brings the past back to life in this heartwarming story.
—Anna Perera, Guantanamo Boy
Lisa’s grandfather is turning 100, and her family is gathering from across the country to celebrate at Grandpa Joe’s home—a sprawling apricot orchard in southern California. The orchard is both the heart of their family and a reminder of its past.

Like many immigrants to America, Joe and his wife, Anna, fled their home country in one of the horrific ethnic cleansings of the twentieth century. They were forced out of Turkey because they were Greek, but they arrived in the New World full of hope. A piece of land with a thriving orchard gave a new beginning to a new American family.

Lisa wants to preserve the beloved orchard that Joe built with his own hands, but to her bitter disappointment, everyone else in the family wants to sell. They all have busy lives and families of their own. Lisa is gearing up for a battle—one that intensifies when her college-age daughter falls in love with the wrong man.

Old divisions and the longing to hold on to tradition make it hard to see a path forward. Will the family’s history tear it apart—or will they find deeper ties to bind them together?
Catherine Temma has created a finely nuanced portrait of a family facing change in a complex, multi-cultural world. Written with a poet’s eye for detail, The Orchard is a feast for the imagination—and a moving reminder of all that nourishes and strengthens the human heart.
—Marta Maretich, The Merchants of Light, The Possibility of Lions, The Bear Suit
Catherine Temma Davidson is the author of the novel, The Priest Fainted, “a resonant mélange of wisdom and humor, a testimony to the strong bonds of family and cultural traditions” (Publishers Weekly). She has published two volumes of poetry, Inheriting the Ocean, and Behind the Lines. Her poetry has won acclaim on both sides of the Atlantic, including a 2016 commendation for the International Troubadour Poetry Prize. The grandchild of immigrants and an immigrant herself, Catherine teaches writing to international students at Regent’s University and works as a writing consultant at Amnesty International. She serves on the board of Exiled Writers Ink, an organization that promotes writing by refugees and asylum seekers. Originally from Southern California, Catherine lives in London with her family.

The Orchard
Catherine Temma Davidson
Paper, 100 pages
Reading level: tk



The dream of a literate America

“The richest nation on Earth has never allocated enough resources to build sufficient schools, to compensate adequately its teachers, and to surround them with the prestige our work justifies. We squander funds on highways, on the frenetic pursuit of recreation, on the overabundance of overkill armament, but we pauperize education.”
While this sounds like a policy speech that could have been written yesterday, these are the words of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., delivered in 1964 as he received the John Dewey Award from the United Federation of Teachers.

More chilling is Dr King’s admonition to educators and citizens, written 70 years ago –70 years!—to find the truth:

Martin Luther King USA Postage Stamp

Martin Luther King USA Postage Stamp

“To think incisively and to think for one’s self is very difficult. We are prone to let our mental life become invaded by legions of half-truths, prejudices, and propaganda. At this point, I often wonder whether or not education is fulfilling its purpose. A great majority of the so-called educated people do not think logically and scientifically. Even the press, the classroom, the platform, and the pulpit in many instances do not give us objective and unbiased truths. To save man from the morass of propaganda, in my opinion, is one of the chief aims of education. Education must enable one to sift and weigh evidence, to discern the true from the false, the real from the unreal, and the facts from the fiction.” – Morehouse College, The Maroon Tiger, 1947
Dr. King’s insisted on a simple solution to eradicate poverty: its total abolition through the guaranteed income. While other efforts have made some progress, effective coordination rarely rises above political weakness. The essential pieces—a program for adequate and transformative housing, access to equal education, and support for fragile family relationships  that distort development—are subject to “the whims of legislative bodies.” Dr. King called for nothing short of the end of poverty. And he identified education as the battleground in that freedom struggle.

With literacy rates relatively unchanged in America over the intervening decades, it is hard to see the progress toward a more enlightened and informed society. Inequality in access to education widens. It is hard to maintain hope.

And yet, Dr. King’s acceptance speech for the 1964 Novel Peace Prize gives heart. “I believe that unarmed truth and unconditional love will have the final word in reality. This is why right temporarily defeated is stronger than evil triumphant.”

In the beginning

As 2016 comes to a close, it is wise to reflect on the good things that happened this year amid so much sadness and loss in the world around us. The overwhelming kindness and support that welcomed our new nonprofit, Gemma Open Door for Literacy, reaffirmed my belief in the fundamental goodness of people. We honor the pioneers such as Ruth Johnson Colvin and ProLiteracy, New Island Press, and all of the librarians, volunteers, teachers, and mentors devoted to full literacy for all.

So many thanks are due to those who helped us continue our small role in the mission to help adults and young adults read. Generous friends and benefactors gave time, money, advice, and much-valued encouragement. Authors rose to the challenge of creating sophisticated stories at low reading levels that interest grown-ups. I am humbled and grateful, and commit to bigger things in 2017!

Treat Shop (1960) is the first hardcover book I ever owned.  A collection selected and edited by children’s literature experts Eleanor M. Johnson and Leland B. Jacobs, the charmingly-illustrated book presents stories and poems from Aesop and Grimm to Margaret Wise Brown and Dr. Seuss. When I take it down from the shelf in my study, I run a finger over my name—middle initial and all—on the inside cover, written in my mother’s hand. I am deeply grateful to her, my first teacher who first gave me the gift of books. And to all the teachers over the years who built on that foundation, I can’t imagine a life without you.

Remember those who taught you to read. Remember those who struggle to read. Remember your first book. Remember.


The young will inherit

lol-headerBy the age of 18, almost 90% of young adults regularly get their news from Facebook and other social media, according to a study by the Media Insight Project. That can’t surprise anyone, but it makes me a little nervous, especially given the dominance of false news. How can we process the vast amount of information flashed at us to make steady decisions about local affairs, insurance choices, personal finances…elections? How do young people figure out what’s true and what’s not? What to worry about and what to let slide?

To make considered opinions, it is important to read widely and then reflect. A passing glance at a phone is not enough to keep someone informed. If a young person struggles to read—or is a reluctant reader—all the more reason to believe that he or she is unable to fully participate in the decisions that determine our lives. 

And that doesn’t begin to address the anxiety young folks feel in a complex world. No matter what your response to recent elections, there is no avoiding the fact that Americans are stressed. The cycle was brutal and persistent, and, as we recognize with deep concern, divisive.

It made me think about so many young people across the globe who feel hopeless, scared, un-noticed each and every day. How would we know about their experience except by reading about them?

Where do we go to understand the implications of a change of government, to find a new way of looking at the world, to seek comfort in the evidence that the world goes on?

Not with a tweet, not with a post, rather with a news article, a story, a book. That is why we take our mission of full literacy for all adults so seriously…and you should, too.

Get a book in that kid’s hand.

About Gemma Open Doors

An innovative program of original works by some of our most beloved modern writers, originally designed in Ireland to promote adult literacy. These fresh stories showcase new writing from both best-selling authors and emerging voices.

Find Your Level

Gemma Open Door titles are designed to fit the needs of specific reading levels. Find the right level for your audience in this complete list of titles and reading level information:

Open Door Titles and Reading Levels

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Gemma Open Door for Literacy, Inc. is a 501(c)(3) charitable nonprofit organization. Gifts and donations are tax-deductible to the full extent of the law. EIN #81-1384020