Elsa Brizzi was at a conference in Washington, D.C., five years ago when something she heard rattled her soul.
She said the speaker was talking about the impact of education on a community and said you could count how many children couldn't read and know how many prisons to build.
The notion shook Brizzi, who left invigorated to make reading a priority.
Brizzi, in cooperation with several community organizations, is developing a series of tutoring sessions — called the Intergenerational Literacy Project — that will give second-graders from the Boys & Girls Club of Laguna Beach the opportunity to read through her book "You Are a Very Special You" with help from tutors.
Children will meet for an hour once a week for five weeks beginning in mid-October. Each child will be paired with a trained volunteer mentor from the Susi Q Senior Center.
The project, an effort of the Woman's Club of Laguna Beach along with the Laguna Outreach for Community Arts, the American Assn. of University Women's Laguna Beach branch, the Laguna Beach Library and Sally's Fund, continues in January, when children will create their own books, complete with text and drawings.
Students will depict "their specialness," as Brizzi, a Woman's Club of Laguna Beach board member, described in a release.
LOCA artists will help students illustrate their ideas, and the organization will create a webpage to showcase the students' work.
"Hopefully it's a way to discover something special about themselves in their drawings," Brizzi said.
Children will present the books in front of their families at the Laguna Beach Library at the end of the program.
Organizers expect 12 to 15 children, with as many tutors, said Ellie Tipton Ortiz, Woman's Club of Laguna Beach board president.
Brizzi secured a $700 grant from AAUW to help with any expenses.
Interested volunteers can attend an informational meeting from 12:30 to 1:30 p.m. on either Wednesday or Sept. 11 at the Susi Q, 380 3rd St. in Laguna Beach.
For more information, call (949) 376-1806.