The Coastal Star

Pay it Forward: Poet, naturalist to speak at Literacy Coalition fundraiser

Love of Literacy Luncheon committee members (l-r, in front) Patricia Knobel, Stephanie Kahlert, Deborah Ghostine, Lisa Fullmer, Nicole Pasquale, Laura Silver, (in back) Ken Spillias, Jorgette Smith, Lynn Kalber, Carol Rose, Susan Rabinowitz, Jennifer Cacioppo, Regine Bataille, CEO Kristin Calder and Bettina Young. Photo provided

By Amy Woods
The Love of Literacy Luncheon has brought authors to the podium with household-name status. Henry Winkler. Pat Conroy. David Baldacci.
    This year’s keynote speaker is different. Although she has written two best sellers, was a finalist for a Pulitzer Prize and has published more than two dozen literary works, she remains a little off the radar.
    “Kristin and I both had to Google her,” luncheon Chairwoman Bettina Young said, referring to the Literacy Coalition of Palm Beach County’s chief executive officer, Kristin Calder. “We learned that she is profound, both talented and multifaceted and who writes in a way that is so detailed.”
    Diane Ackerman, of A Natural History of the Senses and The Zookeeper’s Wife fame, will headline the annual fundraiser March 16.
    “The cool thing about her is she’s an award-winning poet and naturalist,” Young said. “Poet and naturalist had an edge to it. It was something completely out of the box.”
    The Zookeeper’s Wife, based on Ackerman’s 2008 book about the Warsaw Zoo in Poland during World War II, will be released in theaters later this month. It stars Jessica Chastain as lead character Antonina Zabinski. Zabinski, along with her husband, Jan Zabinski, saved hundreds of Jews from the Holocaust by sheltering them in zoo cages.
    “It’s not only a read that you want to know what’s going on, but it is so interesting,” Young said.
    Up to 700 guests are expected at the event that last year generated $200,000 for literacy programs in the area, among them ReaderCorps. ReaderCorps is a new youth initiative that awards prizes and recognition to children who organize book drives, participate in read-a-thons and read to younger children or elderly people.
    “Reading is fundamental, and it’s fun,” said Young, who has chaired the luncheon for three consecutive years. “It’s something that really touches me in a personal way.”
    A startling statistic: One in seven adults in the county functions at the lowest level of literacy.
    “It’s not a frou-frou luncheon,” Young said. “It’s a luncheon that gives back. It’s a luncheon where you learn about what’s going on in our community.”

If You Go

What: Love of Literacy Luncheon
When: 11:30 a.m. March 16
Where: Kravis Center, 701 Okeechobee Blvd., West Palm Beach
Cost: $150
Information: Call 279-9103 or visit

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