WITSummer Books 2018

By Ellen Werner, Program Director

WITSummer Books 2018

Each May, WITS celebrates our students by giving them brand new books: these are our WITSummer Books. The WITS staff selects the books with WITS students’ interests, abilities, and backgrounds in mind. To ensure that students receive books that are close to their reading and interest level, WITS gives different book sets comprising of different formats and genres to pre-kindergarten-first graders, second-third graders, fourth-fifth graders, and sixth-eighth graders. Wondering what WITSummer books students will be receiving at the end of this school year? Read this article to find out! 

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The Community of WITS Volunteers’ Impact

By: Eric Coleman, Communications Manager

WITS Board Member and volunteer Patrick Hatton with his student Daveon, a third grader in the Mid-Day Mentoring program, at Drake Elementary School.

April is Volunteer Appreciation Month, and volunteers have always been at the heart of WITS’ efforts to develop life-long readers. In 1991, WITS founders, Joanne Alter and Marion Stone,  felt they had a responsibility to give back to their community. Seeking ways to volunteer their time, Alter and Stone began partnering with a teacher at Byrd Academy, where they quickly became fixtures in the classroom and a literacy support for students. They saw firsthand the positive effects created by the simple act of reading aloud with students. WITS was then founded  by recruiting caring mentors to donate their time in order to cultivate the love of reading in Chicago Public Schools. Over the past 27 years, volunteers have been integral to WITS’ ability to impact thousands of students.

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From Theory to Practice: Rochelle Lee Awardees Share How Study Groups Impact Their Classrooms

By: Shawn Bush and Eric Coleman

Teachers at Lavizzo Elementary School meet as part of a Rochelle Lee Teacher Award Study Group.

One of WITS’ strategy for growing students as readers is supporting teachers through professional development and by providing classroom resources. The Rochelle Lee Teacher Award Study Group program aims to enhance the culture of literacy in entire schools through cross-grade-level teacher collaboration and increasing student access to books.

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Student & Mentor Spotlight: Bob and Julian

By Kevin Hujar, Program Specialist

Bob and Julian read Elephant and Piggie in the Talcott Elementary School library.

The Student & Mentor Spotlight this month features two partners who enjoy reading stories together in the Talcott Elementary School library. Bob Chimis is a long-time WITS volunteer who has brought his enthusiasm to the WITS Kindergarten and Summer Early Childhood program for the last several years. Julian is an energetic kindergartener who enjoys reading stories and spending time with his mentor Bob.
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Principles of A Principal: Creating a Nurturing School Environment For the Whole Community

By Shawn Bush, WITS Program Coordinator and Co-Editor of WITS Newsletter/Blog

Tai Basurto is the principal of southwest Chicago public school John C. Dore Elementary, Rochelle Lee Teacher Awardee and Study Group Leader, and a doctoral student finishing her capstone for the Urban Leadership program at University of Illinois – Chicago (UIC). In this piece, Tai shares how her teaching experience and passion for social justice inform how she leads and why she believes neighborhood schools are much more than just institutions of learning.

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WITS Talks: Engaging Young Readers with Graphic Novels with Amy Duffy

Interview by: Eleanor Dollear, Program Coordinator

Amy Duffy is the Content Curator of Youth Materials for Chicago Public Libraries. She recently led a WITS Talk for a group of volunteers, staff, and community members on the value of graphic novels and how we can support students in getting as much as possible out of them. 

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Outcomes Focused for Student Advancement

By: Tena Kunik, Chief Strategy Officer

A WITS Kindergarten Mentor reads aloud to her student in a school library.

Since 1991, Working in the Schools (WITS) has connected students with literacy mentors in public elementary schools across Chicago.  What began as a caring volunteer opportunity for the founders of WITS, Marion Stone and Joanne Alter, has evolved into the most influential literacy service provider to elementary aged students in Chicago.  Now in 2018, WITS plays an integral role in building positive self-identity and critical literacy skills for more than 3,000 students in WITS programs each school year.

“We always knew our programs created positive attitudes toward reading in our students. But in 2012, it became apparent that our programs were affecting reading level growth,” said Brenda Langstraat, Chief Executive Officer of WITS since 2012.  “It was then that we identified the two outcomes of WITS programs to be students’ reading level growth and attitudes towards reading.”

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Program Spotlight: Fairfield Elementary Academy & the Federal Reserve Bank of Chicago

By Annie Kennedy, Community Manager

A student and her mentor read together in the Workplace Mentoring program at the Federal Reserve Bank of Chicago.

At the corner of Jackson and LaSalle stands the Federal Reserve Bank of Chicago. Surrounded by heavy bollards and an unobtrusive black and gold sign indicating what is inside, you might never think that, for one hour every Thursday, the bank changes. Fifteen employees close their computers and head to the fifth-floor cafeteria while a school bus filled with fifth through seventh grade students from Fairfield Elementary Academy pulls up outside. Suddenly, a normally quiet lobby fills with chatter as the students are greeted by officers overseeing the space and are led through security before going upstairs. Even though they do not work at the bank, they are as much a part of the community as those who spend their days there.

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