When Zack Gusenoff was 12, he wanted to do something meaningful for the children at The Home for Little Wanderers. In 2018, he ran a Halloween costume drive in Newton, collecting over 100 costumes for children served by The Home. When COVID hit, the drive was no longer an option, so he began thinking of alternate opportunities that 10- to 12-year-old kids would enjoy, where they could connect safely with peers. Page Turners Book Club was born.
Zack’s goal with Page Turners was to share his love of reading by hosting a safe, respectful and structured forum where kids from diverse backgrounds could come together to discuss books. The eighth-grader reached out to President & CEO Lesli Suggs, LICSW, with a proposal outlining what he envisioned for the no-cost virtual book club and the benefits for those involved. She connected him with youth at Harrington House, our group residence for children ages 8-13 who have been removed from their homes by the state, and Page Turners began its next chapter.
Zack Gusenoff, a 10th grader at Newton South High School, with CEO Lesli Suggs, LICSW
While the literary forum began as a virtual book club, Page Turners now meets in person, once a month, and kids rotate in and out based on their schedules. With the help of a librarian, Zack selects books that are engaging and funny and allows the kids to decide which they like best. “The priority was always for this to be fun and to enhance the kids’ social and emotional growth,” he says.
Zack buys the kids their own copies, and they begin reading the book together. The kids then read the book on their own, before reconvening at their next gathering to finish it as a group and select their new read. After one meeting, one little girl was so excited she read a story in full the very next night. She then read the book again and again until the next discussion.
“Another member is now reading stories to younger youth because of his encouragement from Zack to read out loud,” shares Residential Supervisor Victoria Tucker.
Page Turners is a welcome change of pace from the kids’ regular evening activities. They enjoy the lively, laughter-filled discussion, sharing perspectives and bonding over the fruit snacks, Oreos and flavored seltzer that Zack brings.
Three years into this project and now in high school, Zack says he thinks about going to Harrington House all the time. “I never imagined the impact that it would have on me,” he shares. “It’s a cool mutual relationship we have. I think I’m having a positive effect on the kids, and they’re definitely having a meaningful impact on me.”