How can literacy address violence in Chicago after a year with over 750 murders and countless other affected by trauma and violence? Since 2011, ConTextos has been working on exactly this issue in El Salvador, which has over 700 murders a month— that’s nearly a murder an hour in a country comparable in population and size to Chicago.

Now, ConTextos is bringing its powerful program Soy Autor to Chicago's Cook County Jail. We begin program implementation in two weeks and need your help to stock an incredible library to support learning, curiosity and expression.

Soy Autor is an intensive writing program that incorporates peaceful conflict resolution and trauma-informed practices to develop pro-social behaviors; interventions that are therapeutic, empowering and rehabilitating. Participants learn to “read as writers” as they author powerful memoirs, revising to consider audience, engaging in constant conversation with their peers to learn how to disagree peacefully as they give positive feedback, and finally publishing their work in the form of illustrated books. These stories are then used to open dialogues and healing conversations, building empathy, self-awareness and deeper relationships with others.

To build writers, we need to develop readers. And readers need access to incredible, diverse, eclectic, beautiful, global books. Non-fiction, classic stories, children's literature, graphic novels, biographies... (softback only!)

Young people 18-25 years old face unique challenges: psychologists consider them adolescents while the legal system considers them adults. Meanwhile, the neighborhoods that are suffering most from violence are the same communities entwined with the justice system and the jail. By developing prosocial behaviors, self-reflection and projection, Soy Autor changes how these individuals see themselves. The powerful, beautifully published stories of their lives, have positive reverberations upon their families and communities, transforming relationships with their children, partners, parents and colleagues. 

Autor Celebration at Cook County

On April 26, the first round of Cook County Authors presented their final illustrated memoirs at a Publishing Celebration. Family members, invited guests and jail staff joined the celebration as authors talked about the program and read from their final works.

Sheriff Tom Dart addressed the audience. "85% of the people who come into this jail will end up right back in their communities," he commented. "We need to do more to prepare them to go back home." 

See all memoirs here



Debra Gittler
Founder and Executive Director

Lisa Kenner
Chief Education Officer

Angela Rudolph
Chief Operating Officer 


641 W. Lake St. Suite 200,
Chicago, IL 60661.

Donate are tax- deductible in the USA and El Salvador. ConTextos is an apolitical and non-religious NGO.