Author and WIJABA Founder James J. Owens on #ConversationsLIVE

Photo: Abby Blossom

Photo: Abby Blossom

Celebrity anthology becomes force for child literacy

By Brandon Yu

November 14, 2017

In 2001, James Owens had an idea for a book, one whose purpose was so simple it sounds almost comical in retrospect. 

“I was running out of things to read,” says Owens, a professor at the University of Southern California. “But I thought, well, it’d be really interesting to hear about the books that inspire prominent people, and maybe I’ll come up with a book list for myself, and then of course be able to share that with others.” 

More than 15 years later, the idea not only spawned its own book, “The World Is Just a Book Away” — an anthology of 60 of the world’s foremost figures writing about their relationship to books — but also a nonprofit charity of the same name whose work promoting child literacy has reached 70,000 children in three countries.

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Buzz Aldrin, Other Space Celebrities Write About Love of Reading

By Elizabeth Howell, Contributor

October 23, 2017 04:17pm ET

To celebrate their love of reading, moonwalker Buzz Aldrin and space tourist Anousheh Ansari join dozens of other space celebrities in a book being published for a children's charity.

The anthology is called "The World is Just a Book Away" (USC Libraries Press, 2017), and it is the culmination of 15 years of work by James Owens, a University of Southern California management communication professor who organized the book to celebrate reading, a skill his mother fostered in him before she died when he was 9.

While the book includes a range of notable people — such as His Holiness the Dalai Lama, former Soviet Union President Mikhail Gorbachev and famed director Martin Scorsese — many of the people featured have personal or political connections to space as well.

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