Philly educator devoted to changing the lives of youth through cooking, reading

PHILADELPHIA (WPVI) -- A Philadelphia woman has devoted herself to opening the eyes of young people to life-long possibilities.

E. Marie Lambert of Roxborough has worked her entire life as an educator, holding positions as a preschool teacher to running a day care center. She believes that reading is one of the most important tools for success.

"I wanted to keep kids engaged in literacy experiences, and I love reading. I understand as an educator and as a parent that reading is fundamental, and it is the number one game-changer in academic success," said Lambert.

She also believes that success comes from awareness of opportunity. And because of that, she started the True Way Youth Empowerment Foundation, a nonprofit organization that hosts an annual conference inviting business professionals to speak to Philadelphia youth. The conferences provide access to people who found success in a range of areas like the arts, sciences, and health and wellness.

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"I started it because kids in urban and underserved areas often aren't aware of a wider range of professions and interests. So I wanted them to have access to professions, and careers and interests that they may not necessarily have access to or be aware of," she said.

In 10 years, Lambert has never missed a conference, that is until the pandemic put a halt on public events. But she wouldn't let that stop her from reaching the youth in her community.

"I wanted to just kind of lessen the gap that happens when school is out and when kids are on vacation. And I thought besides reading aloud, what better way to engage them than by having them do something fun in the kitchen," said Lambert.

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She turned that idea into "Cooks with Books." It's a Facebook and Instagram live experience combining cooking, reading and sometimes singing.

"I thought besides having kids just play video games, this was something fun, educational. And then when you talk about being in the kitchen, we also incorporate math and science-- we are measuring and mixing and turning liquids into solids and solids into liquids," she said.

Lambert does "Cooks with Books" once a week for an hour, and hopes to inspire all who participate to pick up a book and eventually attend one of her conferences.

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