In addition to her prolific career as a writer for young readers, Jane Kurtz is an ambassador for literacy especially in her childhood home of Ethiopia. As a founding member of the non-profit organization, Kurtz's role with Ethiopia Reads began (and continues today) as an organizer and fund raiser. Initially she raised money and organized a board, volunteers, and other support. Jane served for fifteen years as a member of the board, including several years as board chair. Presently, Jane continues to be a spokesperson and ambassador for the ongoing efforts of Ethiopia Reads. After establishing the first free and open library in the capitol city of Addis Ababa, organization has put its focus on partnering with schools and has established 65 libraries for children including at least one model school library in every region of Ethiopia. Jane often travels internationally and within the United States speaking with groups interested in the work of spreading literacy. If you are interested in inviting Jane to speak in your school or library, or to the members of your organization, you can find out more information on her contact page or by e-mailiing her for further information.
During her travels on behalf of Ethiopia Reads she also visits schools and libraries where she shares the books she has authored -- many of her books have their genisis in her life as a child in Ethiopia, growing up in a country with a rich and long history, and in a family that cared deeply about others.
In May 2014 Jane was awarded a "Spirit of Achievement Award" honoring her work with Ethiopia Reads. The award "for excellence in leadership and dedication to the mission of Ethiopia Reads" acknowledged her many years and hours of work to spread literacy, specifically in Ethiopia - the country of her childhood.
Jane Kurtz talks about her work with Ethiopia Reads in an interview with Sarah Blake Johnson.
Citation: Johnson, Sarah Blake. (4 June 2012) Jane Kurtz -- a conversation about Ethiopia Reads and volunteerism. Explorations: Writing -- Culture -- Life. www.sarahblakejohson.blogspot.com. (WEB) http://sarahblakejohnson.blogspot.com/2012/06/jane-kurtz-conversation-about-ethiopia.html
In 2015 Jane was honored with an award from the Society of Ethiopians Established in Diaspora, for her extensive literacy work in the country of her childhood. Citing especially her contribution through Ethiopia Reads, as that organization's co-founder.
VERMONT COLLEGE OF FINE ARTS: A few years after the first MFA program in the country to focus exclusively on writing for young readers, was established in 1997, Jane Kurtz was invited to join the faculty. She has being involved in the program every since. The students in this program come to campus in Vermont twice a year to participate in an intensive residency. One-on-one mentorships are established with faculty and the dialogue between faculty mentor and the student mentorees continue throughout the year as the students engage in bringing focus on their own area of interest. As part of this program, and as a generous author, Jane has mentored such writers as Nancy Bo Flood, Toni Buzzeo, Cynthia Leitich Smith, Lynn Miller-Lachmann, and Roxane . Helping other writers explore the best way to tell their stories is just one more way that Jane Kurtz has found to spread literacy among children and adults.
Jane was raised in Ethiopia in a missionary family that included four sisters (Caroline, Joy, Jan, and Cathy) and one brother, Christopher. Chris is very involved in the mission of Ethiopia Reads as a board member and an outreach volunteer - mentoring teachers and educators to work with Ethiopians to provide library services in libraries established across Ethiopia. But Chris is also an accomplished author and teacher. Jane and Chris are sometimes co-authors. Together they have co-authored Only a Pigeon and Water Hole Waiting. Chris has also authored other books, including his 2013 title, The Adventures of a South Pole Pig: A novel of snow and courage (with illustrations by Jennifer Black Reinhardt; HMH Books for Young Readers, 2013)