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Experience Corp Team Leader Promotes Literacy in Chicago

Hattie Berry uses her love of books to teach kids how to read

Woman pictured helping kids read

Carlos Javier Ortiz

En español | When Hattie Berry was in elementary school, she'd race home every day to read. Comic books, the newspaper, fairy tales — everything she could get her hands on.

"I had so many books in my house, I could have opened a library,” said Berry, 70, a retiree who lives in Chicago's Englewood neighborhood.

As an AARP Experience Corps team leader, Berry shares her love of reading with students at Anna R. Langford Community Academy, where she oversees 16 volunteer literacy tutors.

One of five children, Berry grew up in Chicago's Little Italy neighborhood. Her mother was a homemaker and her father a construction worker.

Berry married in 1967 and had three children of her own. She started working in high school at Kresge's, a now-shuttered five-and-dime, then later joined dessert-maker Sara Lee as a check depositor. She eventually entered a computer-skills training program and worked her way up to network analyst, before retiring in 2008.

Today, Berry feels a sense of accomplishment in her work as an Experience Corps literacy tutor at Langford, where her 11-year-old granddaughter, Alanah, attends school.

Her reward: watching students’ faces light up when they're getting help. “I am in this community,” she said. “I am trying to give back."

And Berry continues her childhood passion of reading after the school day ends. More often than not it's with Alanah, who loves reading aloud to her grandmother.

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