Since the invention of books, kids have delayed bedtime by asking their parents to read just one more. Books can teach, they can entertain, and they can be a treasured source of family bonding. When a Chicago dad set a goal to change both his life and his community, he harnessed the power of the ultimate tool: books.
Joseph Williams experienced a life-changing reality check when he found himself in Cook County Jail for possession of a stolen vehicle. Though the time he spent behind bars was roughly a decade ago, the lessons he learned remain at the forefront of his mind every single day.
“It made me think a little bit differently,” Williams told TODAY. “This is how I ended up going into my children’s school to volunteer.”
At first, Williams volunteered in the lunchroom, happily contributing to the place where his kids spent their weekdays. One fateful day, the dedicated dad stumbled upon an unexpected source of fulfillment when a teacher asked him to read a book to her class. The kids simply couldn’t get enough of Williams’ storytelling. They asked him to come back, and immediately, storytime became a cherished part of the week for both Williams and the students.
“And with me starting to do that, other fathers started to come in,” Williams recalled. “They were like, ‘Hey, what’s going on? Can we be a part of this? Can we join?’ I (was) like ‘Absolutely.'”
From the community of dads eager to set a positive example for children on the South Side of Chicago, the Mr. Dad’s Father’s Club emerged. Aside from a whole lot of reading, more than 150 “Mr. Dads” actively take part in community outreach programs to enrich the lives of kids in their community.
“My goal is to get fathers back involved in their children’s lives,” Williams said. “And hopefully, one day, we would like to build a community center, where there’s a library and dads can just come in and we can offer more resources.”