Children’s Literacy in Chicago: the Right to Be Smart

Information Literacy_education_Children's Literacy in Chicago_Yosef Meystel

Image courtesy of Ewa Rozkosz at

Books play an important role in our lives. They bind us to the past, allow us to travel to the future. They demand nothing from us and in exchange for our attention, they give us independence and freedom.

One of the biggest challenges Chicago has to face currently is illiteracy. 30% of adults in Chicago have low basic literacy skills, 54% of Chicago’s public school students do not meet or exceed reading standards, and what is more tragic, the first ones in line to be affected by this problem are children from low-income families. Many low-income children enter kindergarten with a significant learning gap compared to their wealthier peers.

Statistics don’t lie when they show that low-income children by age three hear approximately 30 million fewer words than a child from a wealthier family does. This gap is hard to compensate since 61% of low-income households do not even own any children’s books.

Yosef Meystel knows how important it is to improve children’s early literacy and grade-level reading skills. That is why he is in favor of supporting programs for early education through a philanthropic approach. There are some institutions that counter the myth that children from disadvantaged households have too many obstacles to overcome to reach the literacy levels of their more privileged peers, demonstrating that when the instruction is loving and expert, almost all children are willing to learn how to read.

In this article, you can find three institutions located in Chicago, which work to improve children’s literacy from a philanthropic approach. These organizations work with some of the most needed volunteers in the world right now, as they tutor children after school.

Open Books

This foundation has worked with thousands of students and reached hundreds of thousands more through their book grant programs, community events, and literacy partnerships. It focuses on the transformative impact literacy has on children, promoting writing and reading programs, team growth and volunteer engagement.

The team behind Open Books is energetic, entrepreneurial, and full of book-lovers. Every team member comes from a different background, with decades of experience in business, education, retail, development, law, finance and writing, among others. They all believe that in order to have a positive impact in Chicago, they must remain together as a team working for literacy.

With their programs, such as a Reading Buddies, they work with elementary students one-on-one, helping them boost their reading skills such as fluency and comprehension. Twice a week, a volunteering Big Buddy and a Little Buddy gather and read together. This way, Big buddies coach many students every year and work as a role model whose love for books can be often contagious.

To read more about Open Books, you can click here.

Sit Stay Read

This organization was founded in Chicago in 2003, and its mission is to improve literacy skills and motivate a love of learning in children who come from low-income neighborhoods. Sit Stay Read works with trained volunteers and Certified Reading Assistance Dogs into 16 Chicago Public Schools, some of them located in Chicago’s poorest neighborhoods. It is one of the leading organizations in the use of dogs as a fun tool to improve reading fluency in grades one to four.

Sit Stay Read volunteers – both human and canine- are in the classroom, during the school day, working with first through fourth graders on different reading and writing activities. They help to serve low-income families and students using the right resources to increase their literacy skills.

When children are able to read to dogs instead of people, the feel more confident. There is no place for judgment, just fun and excitement about reading. Dogs enable children to tackle the serious issue of literacy, changing what could be a boring reading session into a beautiful life experience.

To read more about Sit Stay Read, you can click here.

Reading_Children's Literacy in Chicago_Yosef Meystel

Image courtesy of ThomasLife at

Chicago Literacy Alliance

This organization was built based on the idea of helping people of all ages and backgrounds to receive literacy support and education. It is guided by the passion for books as reading is treated like a way for people to be free.

The Chicago Literacy Alliance’s main goal is to help all people living in Chicago become functionally literate. Literacy as a characteristic can become a point of reference and pride for the city. To achieve this goal, The Chicago Literacy Alliance serves different schools, through the coordination of projects and the generation of reading and writing experiences.

It is not only an independent organization but a growing network constantly trying to partner with other institutions, reaching most parts of the city. As this network keeps growing, different centers are being opened, allowing low-income children to visit spaces dedicated to literacy and with a regular schedule of events and opportunities.

This alliance is based on the idea of passion and commitment as the essentials for making of Chicago a better-educated city.

To read more about The Chicago Literacy Alliance, you can click here.


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