By Kristina Houck
For 18 years, Juvenile Court Book Club has offered books as an outlet to youth in San Diego’s detention facilities. And for nearly 18 years, Rancho Santa Fe’s Christina Fink has supported the entirely volunteer-driven nonprofit’s efforts.
Currently serving as a founding board member and chair of the Book Selection Committee, Fink is also past president and site coordinator of Polinsky Children’s Center for the organization.
Juvenile Court Book Club recognized Fink for her service with a Literacy Hero Award during its annual Volunteer Appreciation Luncheon on April 11 at the Bay View Restaurant in San Diego.
“It’s very nice,” Fink said. “I’m very honored.”
Founded in 1996, Juvenile Court Book Club offers literacy programs at San Diego’s youth detention facilities. Volunteers work with teachers, probation staff and other employees in the county’s Juvenile Court and Community Schools to create an annual book club curriculum to enhance the state’s public high school English curriculum.
“There are a lot of book programs for detainees, but they entail donating the books to the facility and putting them on a cart and dragging them around,” Fink said. “This is different. This is a shared reading experience. You share community. You share ideas and concepts and discussion.”
Students gather monthly with volunteers to discuss the books, which serve as a springboard for discussions of real-life challenges, experiences and issues that are relevant to students in detention.
“The ideas that are embedded in them from having gone through this book is just like going through a therapy session,” Fink said. “When they enter a book and when they come out a book — they’re not the same person. And they’re going to re-enter the community as a different person. For those reasons, our books are carefully selected.”
Fink began working with the organization as a volunteer reader when her daughter was 9 and her son was 7 years old. She recalled reading to and with her children as they grew up.
“It was a wonderful connection with the kids. We were able to talk about stories and characters. Even now, they recommend books to me. It’s like anything else you share — it’s a shared experience, and I really enjoyed that,” she said. “That led me to realize that there were other kids that weren’t getting that shared reading experience.”
Today, Fink’s children are out of college. They still share a love of reading, and she continues sharing her love of reading with other children through Juvenile Court Book Club, which serves roughly 140 students per month at four different sites.
In addition to book club, the organization offers tutoring, independent reading libraries and college scholarships.
“I’ve been a long-time volunteer. It’s just a part of what I do and a part of who I am,” Fink said. “I feel very, very lucky to have discovered this program where I live. It’s been life-changing for me.”
For more information about Juvenile Court Book Club, visit