WITS Favorite Literacy and Learning Apps

by Elizabeth Kristoff, Grants & Foundations Manager

Literacy and Learning Apps

In honor of National App Day, we asked the WITS team to share their favorite literacy and learning apps. Learn more about the apps WITS uses to expand vocabulary, find books, and even brush up on their bilingual skills!


Through the “HelloTalk” app I can connect with native speakers of different languages from all over the world. I’ve used the app to improve my Japanese and having multiple language partners.
– Nick Colbert, Program Coordinator


Twitter is my favorite app to keep up to date with awesome literacy nonprofit work and my favorite authors and publishers. It might not be widely considered as a learning/reading app, but hear me out. I learn so much from the accounts I follow. For example, I follow Chicago Books to Women in Prison (@ChicagoBWP) to learn about what books are in high need for their collection so that I can see if I can contribute. I follow University of Chicago Professor Eve Ewing (@eveewing), an author who writes about the Chicago Public School system. Drawn and Quarterly (@DandQ) is an awesome publisher of graphic novels and I’ve read so many of the books they promote on their account. Finally, of course I follow WITS (@WITSChicago) to keep up to date with all the cool things happening across our programs.
– Eleanor Dollear, Program Coordinator


Now that I’ve moved past my “post-grad school, reading is such a chore” feeling, Goodreads has been so handy. I use it to track the books I want to read and to mark my progress on a 40-book reading challenge I set for myself in January. One more book to go!
– Annie Kennedy, Community Manager

Chicago Public Library App

If you don’t have the Chicago Public Library app on your phone, do you even work for WITS? Seriously, this is probably my favorite reading app. I can call books from anywhere! I can renew! I can search for, download, and play audio books! I can reserve spots at exclusive author events. Oh, and I can read books! Seriously, the CPL app is amazing.
– Mia Valdez-Quellhorst, Director of Teacher Programs

Merriam Webster App

I like the Merriam Webster app for looking up words (there’s an audio feature so you can hear how a word is pronounced, too) and the Chicago Public Library app for putting books on hold and borrowing ebooks!
– Ellen Werner, Program Director

Why invest in mentor relationships?

Why invest in mentor relationships

Consistency is key

One of the pillars of WITS programming is consistency. Through diligent planning, the WITS program team ensures that each WITS student has a mentor to read with every session. WITS mentors are trained and equipped with strategies to connect with students over stories and activities.

Studies have shown that:

  • Students who meet regularly with mentors are 52% less likely than peers to skip a day of school.
  • Students who have mentors report setting higher educational goals and are more likely to attend college than those without mentors.
  • Students who face an opportunity gap but have a mentor are 55% more likely to be enrolled in college than those who did not have a mentor.
  • At-risk students who have a mentor are 130% more likely to hold a leadership position.

Committed to the power of reading

WITS mentors are committed to the long-term success of their students and are invested in the school community where they serve. Most importantly, WITS mentors believe deeply in students and the power of reading.

A donation of just $30 provides a WITS student books to celebrate their time with their WITS mentor. Donate today and help strengthen these relationships that make a difference in the lives of thousands of Chicago Public Schools students.

Favorite Books for Every Age

by Ellen Werner, Program Director

Favorite Books for Every AgeTry these “read-alikes”

WITS staff spend a lot of time reading and talking about books with students. WITS coordinates programming with kindergarten-eighth graders, making staff well-versed in finding new favorite books for every age group. If you’re looking for gifts for young readers, try these “read-alikes.”

Purchase one of these titles for a WITS student

Want to make sure WITS students have access to these excellent books?  Send us one of these titles included in our Amazon wish list. If you use Amazon to send a gift to WITS, make sure to include a gift note with your name and email address so we can thank you. Happy reading!

Literacy is a Human Right

by Eleanor Dollear, Program Coordinator


UNESCO asserts, “Literacy is a fundamental human right and the foundation for lifelong learning. It is fully essential to social and human development in its ability to transform lives. For individual, families, and societies alike, it is an instrument of empowerment to improve one’s health, ones’ income, and one’s relationship with the world.”

WITS understands this and creates opportunities for every student in Chicago to be literate and grow into a passionate reader.
Being able to read and write allows for meaningful participation in the world. At its base, being able to read means knowing what ingredients are in food, understanding what bus line goes to work, taking the correct prescription drug. Furthermore, reading provides insight into other cultures and lifestyles and helps students understand complex topics.

The 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development is a plan of action from the United Nations to strengthen universal peace and eradicate poverty by the year 2030. Universal literacy is a part of this plan, “ensur[ing] that all youth and a substantial proportion of adults, both men and women, achieve literacy and numeracy.”

According to a report published by The Annie E. Casey Foundation, there are proven advantages to being proficient in reading by the third grade. Students who are reading at grade level in the third grade are more likely to graduate high school, less likely to be incarcerated, more likely to find high-paying jobs, and more likely to have a longer lifespan. It is because of these statistics that the WITS Mid-Day Mentoring program primarily serves third grade students.

Beyond taking students to new places, being able to read is vital. Join our movement and help create opportunities for every student in Chicago to be literate.

Make a donation

WITS Talks: Building Positive Relationships with Students presented by Michele Lansing, MA, MS Ed., LCSW

By Eric Coleman Development & Communications Manager

On November 9, 2018, Michele Lansing, MA, MS Ed., LCSW of the Juvenile Protective Association (JPA) presented the first WITS Talk of the 2018-19 school year on building positive relationships with students.  Michele provides insights on working with students that are especially relevant to new or returning mentors working with new students. Read on for an interview with Michele and view the accompanying slideshow for the above video.

Continue reading WITS Talks: Building Positive Relationships with Students presented by Michele Lansing, MA, MS Ed., LCSW