A group of mothers have their sons doing something this summer that many teenagers don’t want to do during the school year.
The mothers, most of whom met through New Life Ministries on Airline Highway, formed a book club for their sons because they didn’t want the young men wasting the summer, especially by playing video games.
The purpose of the club is to inspire the boys to enjoy reading and make a connection to the books they read — and not just “read words on paper,” said Kellie Bynum-Lathan, the group’s main founder.
The seven boys in the group, whose ages range from 12 to 16 years old, are reading a book called “The Pact” by Drs. Sampson Davis, Rameck Hunt and George Jenkins. The story is about the challenges the three men faced in overcoming life on the streets of Newark, N.J., to become doctors.
“We want them to know that no matter what challenges come their way — and they are going to — they can reach their destiny,” Bynum-Lathan said.
Bynum-Lathan said she and the other mothers were having a discussion one day at Vacation Bible School about the “summer gap,” a period when kids have a lot of unstructured free time.
Bynum-Lathan talked about how she was making her son, Joshua, 13, read a book called “Among the Hidden.”
The idea for the book club spawned from there.
“We just decided that we wanted to get together and have the boys read “The Pact” this summer and be able to come together and discuss what they’re reading,” Bynum-Lathan said.
Bynum-Lathan admitted that the boys were not exactly fans of the idea at first.
“Their comment to me at the beginning was that we were invading on their summer,” Bynum-Lathan said. “But once they started reading the story and we started discussing the story, they really got involved.”
The boys had good things to say about “The Pact.”
Terry Williams, 16, said the book was “very inspirational” and taught him the value of an education.
“It really helped me to think about school, where I’m going to go after school, what college I’m going to attend,” he said. “It really helped me to think about those choices.”
Larry Davis, 14, said he enjoys “The Pact” because of its message of overcoming adversity.
“It shows that … any problems that you go through in life, you can overcome them,” Davis said.
The boys first met as a club on July 5. Now they meet every Tuesday to discuss the chapters they have read, Bynum-Lathan said.
At each gathering, the boys take part in a discussion of themes and messages from the chapters.
The discussions are guided by questions Bynum-Lathan finds that encourage the boys to think critically.
Bynum-Lathan writes the questions from personal experience — she is a speech therapist in the East Baton Rouge Parish School System and also teaches reading at Baton Rouge Community College.
“I’m a passionate reader,” Bynum-Lathan said. “I love to read. So I’m putting passion to purpose.”
The group will read another book by the three doctors, “The Code,” after finishing “The Pact.”
Bynum-Lathan said the mothers ultimately want their sons to suggest their own books to read at some point.
“We believe that this is going to grow,” Bynum-Lathan said. “This is going to fuel their passion for reading.”
Sharon Williams, whose son, Houston, is in the group, said she liked the idea because she saw it as a way to spend time with her son. She said she reads along with Houston.
“Truthfully, initially, he wasn’t too into it,” Sharon Williams said. “He wanted to do it on his own time. But as I said, I wanted to use it as an opportunity for us to bond.”
Williams also said reading along with Houston lets her know what areas of reading her son needs help with.
“I’m not totally dependent on the school giving him everything that he needs to cover and everything,” Williams said. “As a parent, I have some insight, so if there’s a problem, I should be the first one to kind of see it.”
Michelle Williams has two sons in the group, Terry and Torry.
She said she would like to see more groups like this one form to challenge young men to think critically.
“What I’ve seen with my sons is they’re being challenged because they have to read, so there’s a structure there,” Michelle Williams said. “They have to read those chapters.”
She said she likes the idea of the group because it helps invest in the boys’ future by encouraging reading and critical thinking.
“I told Mrs. Kellie, I said, ‘This is going to be big, and we need this for Baton Rouge,’ ” she said.