Baltimore youth who reside in the 21217 zip code are getting paid to read books through the Pages To Wages community initiative, compliments of Brian Sessions. Sessions gives back, one book reader at a time.

“I am the one who founded the community initiative, but we have a core group of volunteers who assist readers, mentor, have discussions with the participants about the contents of the books and [who] seek to advance the initiative,” Sessions said. “Pages To Wages is currently based at Upton Boxing [Rec] Center  [located at] 1901 Pennsylvania Avenue in Baltimore, Maryland 21217. We are in the process of branching out to surrounding zip codes.”

Pages To Wages’ first session was underway on Monday, July 17, 2023. It serves Baltimoreans who are ages six to 20 years old. Sessions said that monetary rewards are provided to young people in urban and impoverished neighborhoods to promote literacy, learning, self-awareness, community and social responsibility. 

(l-r) Ashton Hill, Brenda Allison, Javonta Taylor, Brian Sessions, Michael D. Gutrick, Elijah Coit and Lamonte Smith engage in a discussion around a table in late August while Sessions (center) answers a question that stemmed from a book that was read by a Pages To Wages program participant.
Photo Credit: Paul Newson

Sessions added, “After signing up, participants come to the location of the Pages To Wages program in their zip code, pick a book on their reading level, and once the book is complete, whether at that session or another, they discuss the book with a Pages To Wages mentor and are paid. Mentors are present to assist participants with reading or teach them how to read if necessary and also aid in applying the knowledge gained to their present time and context.” 

Sessions possesses an educational and professional background in business administration with a focus in entrepreneurship. The socially conscious Baltimorean grew up near 24th Street and Greenmount Avenue. He is also the founder and director of The ROC Enrichment Program. It seeks to impact the way education is consumed by teaching education and social skills to K-12 students using common distractions found in classrooms, such as cellphones, music, food, movement and more, according to Sessions.

Young people and their parents are singing the praises of the Pages To Wages program.

Josiah Wilson, 15, is a ninth grader whose favorite genre of books are fantasy and mystery. He is a Pages To Wages program participant who mentioned that he now thinks about books beyond school. 

“Now I’m learning more about culture. I have a better appreciation now,” Josiah said.

Angelia Wilson, 17, reads books by Black or African American authors and provides summaries to the Pages to Wages’ program head.

“I am paid based on the number of pages read. One of the recent books I read was “A Raisin in the Sun” and the first book I read was about the transatlantic slave trade called “Africa Is My Home.” Currently, I have earned $120 from Pages To Wages,” Angelia said.

Sade Newson, the mother of Pages To Wages’ participant Noah Newson, said that her husband discovered the program while he was at the Upton Boxing Center this summer.

She explained that in the past two years, Noah’s interest in books and his reading skills have grown exponentially, although he has been interested in books since he was a baby.

“The Pages To Wages program has offered Noah a nurturing space to further enhance his reading and comprehension skills. Also of importance, is the opportunity that Noah gets to enjoy reading books with his peers that promote self-esteem and educate on Black history and community stewardship,” Newson said. “Pages To Wages is empowering children and youth through education and financial enrichment opportunities. As long as my family has lived in the city, we have not come across a reading program like this that caters to children and youth. I’m excited that this program is another resource for families in the 21217 area and beyond.”

Sessions stated that he personally allocates between $500 to $1,000 each month to buy equipment, books, food and fund payment for Pages To Wages’ participants. Sessions could use help.

“As the program is rapidly growing, I am soliciting monetary and book donations,” Sessions said.

Volunteers in the 21217 area and support provided by community activists who would be willing to host a Pages To Wages program site in their zip code are other wish list items.

Sessions started Pages To Wages because he feels that knowledge of self, history and navigating life in general is the foundation to achieving any goal.

He added, “Also, finding help to impact the community can be challenging, but as Fredrick Douglass once said, ‘It is better to build strong children than to repair broken men.’”

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