In 2021, Open Books launched North Lawndale Reads (NL Reads), a multi-year, multi-strategy campaign designed to amplify in North Lawndale the importance of literacy and give the community’s families, parents, and children the resources critical for early reading, from pre-natal experiences to preschool, from Kindergarten through a child’s first elementary years in school.  

Open Books and its North Lawndale Reads partners seek to provide books, tips, tools, and messages to families that fill knowledge gaps about the importance of early literacy and equip caregivers with knowledge and resources to integrate early literacy and learning into the routines of their busy, everyday lives. As a result of the NL READS Campaign, Open Books and its partners seek to contribute to the two overarching goals of increasing the number of prenatal-to-5 children in North Lawndale who are school-ready when they enter Kindergarten and the number of 3rd grade students in North Lawndale who meet or exceed 3rd grade reading benchmarks. Within the North Lawndale community, educators, researchers, and service providers commonly cite these goals as key milestones toward a child’s school, career, and life success.


GRAND OPENING! Pay What You Want Bookstore in North Lawndale!

For the month of September we are turning the museum at Love Blooms Here Plaza (corner of Central Park and Douglas Blvd.) into a pay what you want bookstore! Presented by North Lawndale Reads and Lawndale Pop Up Spot, the museum will be open every Friday, Saturday, and Monday from 3-6pm for you to browse and shop!

The Impact


Over the lifespan of the NL Reads campaign, Open Books seeks to achieve two overarching goals:

  • To increase the number of prenatal-to-5 children in North Lawndale who are school-ready when they enter Kindergarten
  • To increase the number of students in North Lawndale who meet or exceed grade-level reading benchmarks

To achieve these goals, Open Books and its partners will focus on four initial objectives:

  • Community Engagement.  To deepen social cohesion and connection among North Lawndale residents toward stronger family interactions, particularly related to reading and literacy
  • Community Events.  To facilitate participation in community-wide events that promote culturally-relevant literature and the joy and importance of reading
  • “Placemaking”.  To leverage new and existing spaces, from small businesses to homes, to provide books and promote literacy skills development and social-emotional supports for both children and adults
  • Message Saturation.  To disseminate key messages that encourage and support child literacy development

Strategies & Activities

Open Books, its partners at the Steans Family Foundation, and the NL Reads Steering Committee – made up of representatives from nearly 30 organizations – have targeted the following activities to carry out the campaign’s objectives:

  • Promoting and expanding early learning initiatives
  • Training families to better leverage daily reading and the promotion of regular reading habits
  • Increasing home visits to educate parents and caregivers about at-home supports of child reading
  • Increasing book access through book granting and the formation of “book nooks” in community spaces
  • Developing activities and events connected to Playful Learning Landscapes
  • Holding celebratory and educational community events that incorporate literacy and literacy resources
  • Leveraging media and communication vehicles to publicize key messages regarding literacy
  • Providing technical assistance to families (e.g., universal preK enrollment) to increase access to vital resources

Little Free Libaries

In collaboration with Neighbor to Neighbor Literacy Project, Friends of the Parks, and Chicago Cares, Open Books is flooding the neighborhood with books. This map shows the location of Little Free Libraries located in North Lawndale. These boxes are supplied with fresh, engaging books on a consistent basis to provide free access to literature on an ongoing basis.

Steering Committee

The NL Reads campaign has assembled a Steering Committee to shape the campaign’s vision and advise on its execution.  Campaign leadership continues to welcome new Steering Committee members who can contribute to campaign efforts.  The following is the current list of organizations who joined the Committee:

Advocate Bethany Community Health Fund

Carole Robertson Center for Learning

Chicago Children’s Museum

Chicago Public Library

Chicago Public Schools

Family Focus Lawndale

The Firehouse Community Arts Center

Free Spirit Media

Friends of the Children

Illinois Action for Children

Lawndale Christian Health Center

Lawndale Pop-Up Spot

Local Initiatives Support Corp

Metropolitan Family Services

Mikva Challenge

Neighbor to Neighbor Literacy Project

North Lawndale Employment Network

North Lawndale parents

Open Books


Principle Barbers and Visual Artists

Reach Out and Read

Rush University Medical Center

Steans Family Foundation

Sumner Elementary School

Thirty Million Words

Turning the Page

University of Illinois at Chicago

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