Category Archives: Books

Celebrating Black History with Eight Biographies

The WITS library is full of diverse picture books, poetry, chapter books, graphic novels, and of course, biographies! The biographies in our collection range from traditional informational texts, to picture book biographies, to longer chapter books. All year, our program team has the distinct pleasure of learning along with our students by enjoying stories of figures like trombonist Melba Liston, urban farmer Will Allen, and DJ Kool Herc. In honor of Black History Month, here are eight biographies of Black heroes that our students have been enjoying this school year:

“Mae Jemison” by Jodie Shepherd

“Little Melba and Her Big Trombone” by Katheryn Russell-Brown

“I am Martin Luther King, Jr.” by Brad Meltzer

“Ruby Bridges Goes to School: My True Story” by Ruby Bridges

“Simone Biles: Superstar of Gymnastics” by Christine Dzidrums

“Farmer Will Allen and the Growing Table” by Jacqueline Briggs Martin

“When the Beat Was Born: DJ Kool Herc and the Creation of Hip Hop” by Laban Carrick Hill

“Who are Venus and Serena Williams?” by James Buckley Jr.

Not Your Average Valentine’s Day Books

By Ellen Werner, Program Director

There are plenty of Valentine’s Day books out there. Below are eight books that celebrate love for our partners, friends, family, and communities that kids (and the adults in their lives) can enjoy year-round.

Great design and very, very cute: a rare combination. Plus it rhymes.

A simple, extremely charming book about spreading kindness.

Exuberant illustrations by Vanessa Brantley-Newton turn the song lyrics from “One Love” into a story about community coming together.

A gorgeous, simple book about the everyday moments that fill your heart with happiness. Perfect for toddlers who delight in books depicting familiar scenes. Available in paperback bilingual English/Cree, board book English only.

Todd Parr’s books are modern classics – WITS students love them, and you will, too!

Worm and Worm are undeterred by cries of “that’s how it’s always been done!” as they plan their wedding. A celebration of love with a cast of comical insect friends.

  • Love by Matt de la Peña

Images of love from expected and unexpected places – there are some big, heavy themes touched upon in this ultimately hopeful and beautiful book. Also available in Spanish.

A reimagining of Elizabeth Barret Browning’s “Sonnet 43” with beautiful illustrations featuring a diverse cast of kids doing everything from climbing a tree (“I love thee in soft sunlight”) to piloting a submarine (“I love thee deep”).

Want to donate books to our WITS Library for students? 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 Valentine’s Day!

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!

10 Reads for the Summer

By Eric Coleman, Communications Manager

10 Reads for the Summer

Each year, WITS invests in approximately 150 Chicago Public Schools teachers through the Rochelle Lee Teacher Award program. Each Awardee receives access to literacy-focused professional development over the summer, and earns a grant to build their own classroom library. Over the school year, returning awardees participate in the Remaining Readers Book Club to maintain their passion for reading and build community with fellow CPS teachers. For the 2017-18 school year, nine Remaining Readers book clubs began by reading Homegoing by Yaa Gyasi before each selecting books to read and discuss in the months that followed. Below is a list of 10 books that were enjoyed by our 2017-18 Remaining Readers book clubs. Happy summer reading!

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The Power of Libraries: Perspective From A CPS Librarian

Interview and Edited by Shawn Bush, Co-Editor of Blog/Newsletter

Gundry Rowe is a librarian at Walt Disney Magnet Elementary School. This past year, CPS librarians were given the opportunity to apply for the Rochelle Lee Teacher Award Program (RLTA) for the first time. Gundry is a 2017-2018  individual awardee and is one of the first librarians to participate in the RLTA program. Below, Gundry shares her path into library science, delivering a powerful message of the importance of school and public libraries, continued professional development, and student choice. 

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Partner Focus: GCM Grosvenor and Cook Books 2017

“Is my partner here?”

As the WITS staff and I enter Cook Elementary, I am greeted by a handful of students from my Workplace Mentoring Program (WPM). Before heading to class, they skip over for a hug and to ask, “Is my partner here?” One by one they ask about their mentor from GCM Grosvenor, WITS’ corporate host for the WPM with Cook Elementary. I shouldn’t be surprised they are so eager to see their partners. Over the course of the school year, the 33 Cook students who spent their Tuesday afternoons at GCM Grosvenor not only received homework and reading help from their mentors – but also created – together – a place for mutual success and happiness.

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Partner Spotlight: The Illinois Lottery & WITSummerBooks

WITS partners with the Illinois Lottery to provide literacy enrichment and summer reading opportunities to thousands of students through the WITSummerBooks program. The Illinois Lottery strives to maximize revenue for Illinois schools in a responsible manner in addition to supporting community enriching programs such as the WITSummerBooks program. Sponsoring the WITSummerBooks program is a direct investment in student literacy and education for the Illinois Lottery, which is an important part of the Illinois Lottery’s mission.  WITS provides books and reading assistance to youngsters in the greatest need of additional support. For them, summer books are lifelines to adventures, travel and learning opportunities they may not otherwise have.

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Partner Spotlight: KPMG


Beginning in 2015, KPMG has generously provided books to WITS students through the KPMG Family for Literacy (KFFL). Managed in collaboration with First Book, KFFL provides new books to children from low-income families. KFFL has provided more than 2.9 million new books to low-income children in communities across the country since its inception in 2008.

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Summer Reading Recommendations 2017

Throughout each school year, Rochelle Lee Teacher Awardees participate in the Remaining Readers Book Clubs to continue building their passion for reading and further connect with like-minded educators. The following books are the favorite titles read by each Remaining Readers group, perfect suggestions for your next summer read!

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